In this edition of our RDE Mock Draft, we take a look at how the first round could shake out if the Cleveland Cavaliers forgo taking the players most Cavs fans want them to take: Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid. Our own Zak Kolesar is very high on Parker, and many have Parker on the same level of talent as either Wiggins or Embiid. We haven’t really considered the thought of Parker coming to the Cavs much, and definitely should consider the effects that this move could have on the rest of the top picks. A few other changes throughout the mock draft based on my feelings for different teams’ directions and feelings on players have occurred as well.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Jabari Parker, Duke
It would be a little bit of a shock to see Parker go to the Cavs as the top pick. However, there would definitely be some use for Parker on this team. He’s an athletic scorer with great touch on his shot, and can create his own looks from anywhere on the floor. He’s probably an offense-only prospect for now, and is going to require a lot of defensive coaching to become even a passable defender at the NBA level. It’s also a question of whether he’s a small forward or power forward, and if he’s better suited for the four, that creates a bit of a mess with Anthony Bennett and Tristan Thompson on roster. However, it’s likely that Parker could work with the Cavs’ core because he’s a decent off-ball scorer as well, and he could probably play well with Thompson or Bennett because of their play styles on offense. If the Cavs take Parker, it’ll be clear they consider his talent too good to pass up, and I’d expect some roster moves to be on the way during free agency to clear to craft a workable roster around Kyrie and Jabari.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
The Bucks really don’t have a good reason not to take Wiggins if he’s available at the second spot. He’s a perfect option for them to place on the wing, as he’d be a lockdown defender able to team with Giannis Antetokounmpo to form an unholy spider web of arms and athleticism for opponents to have to dissect through. The Bucks also have a ton of acceptable to solid spot-up shooters on roster, from Ersan Ilyasova to Khris Middleton. The thing they lack is an on-ball creator, and Wiggins can be that on the wing. If they took him, it would be a perfect spot for him to land in order to develop his offensive capabilities.
3. Philadelphia 76ers – Joel Embiid, Kansas
It’s not perfect, but after last year’s fleeting hopes of a Nerlens/Anthony Davis block party in New Orleans, Block Party 2.0 could be moving to Philly. Noel and Embiid probably would be able to play together cohesively, and make for a very solid tandem on the defensive end. Both Embiid and Noel can run the floor really well, and Embiid can space the floor to make up for Noel’s horrific shooting touch. The Sixers really don’t have to draft for need at this point, and Embiid’s by far the best player available.
4. Orlando Magic – Dante Exum, Australia
Orlando’s fit for Exum is just an incredibly enticing one. The Magic have a great roster full of flexible pieces, and need a real creator to orchestrate their offense. Exum’s the best pure point in the draft, and while his shooting touch needs work, there’s enough here that Exum won’t be relied upon to be a scorer at first for the Magic.
5. Utah Jazz – Julius Randle, Kentucky
Not much surprise here. Randle’s really the only good fit for the Jazz at this slot, as it’s a little early to take Aaron Gordon or Noah Vonleh. Randle’s probably the most NBA-ready contributor in the draft, and for a Jazz team that could realistically take the next step into playoff contention next season, Randle would be great as their primary post scorer. I’m very sold on the fit here, even if their frontcourt would be a little lacking in size with Randle, Favors, and Kanter.
6. Boston Celtics -Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
The Celtics look pretty set at their guard spots with Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, but realistically, both could be gone by the end of the summer. Avery Bradley is a restricted free agent, and Rondo is going to be involved in a lot of trade rumors this summer. If the Celtics take Smart, he would be insurance for either of these two leaving, and even if both come back, Smart would be a great combo guard to come off the bench initially, learn from Rondo (who was a lot like Smart when he was a rookie), and eventually transition into the starting point guard role for the Celtics.
7. Los Angeles Lakers – Dario Saric, Croatia
The Lakers might want to move this pick in search of a veteran. If they really believe what many Lakers bloggers do (And Mike Garcia of Lake Show Life makes a decent argument here), then Saric is a solid player for them to land. Saric doesn’t need to come to the NBA immediately, and his passing ability, athleticism, and improving shooting will make him a good fit pretty much anywhere. Saric could come in immediately and develop as a flexible piece for whatever the Lakers are going to be this season, or could stay in Europe and join the team in 2015 or 2016 as the final piece for whatever the team is building, similar to his fellow countryman Toni Kukoc did 20 years ago.
8. Sacramento Kings – Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Sacramento has to be excited if Vonleh falls to them at eight. He’s a perfect compliment to DeMarcus Cousins, as a long, athletic power forward that can protect the rim and stroke it from 18 feet. Vonleh projects somewhere between Chris Bosh and Serge Ibaka on the power forward spectrum of skill, and either way, that’s the type of guy you want next to a bullish post scorer like DMC.
9. Charlotte Hornets – Doug McDermott, Creighton
This is a pick I made last time, but it just seems too easy to make. Charlotte needs a shooter to take the next step, and runs a defensive system that is great for making up for the athletic deficits of post players. McDermott is both of those things, and playing him as a Ryan Anderson-type shooter and rebounder between Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would sound really fun. This is probably my favorite landing spot for McBuckets.
10. Philadelphia 76ers – Nik Stauskas, Michigan
If Philadelphia is going to go Embiid/Noel in the post, shooters become a huge priority. Stauskas is probably the best one available at this spot, and he’d be a nice addition here. MCW and Block Party 2.0 would help counter his defensive deficits, and the addition of a spot-up shooter that can also attack the rim would really help the spacing of the Sixers’ offense.
11. Denver Nuggets – Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Nuggets just have too much on their roster to really be able to make use of a rookie right off the bat. I see them either taking the best project prospect available, a wing that could compete with Evan Fournier for backup minutes, or an international stash option. Nurkic seems like the best player in that last category, and this is a good landing spot for him. They could take him and leave him to develop over in Europe, then bring him over as they start to drop their current center horde (None of whom seem to be that special) from their salary. Nurkic also could play really well as a PNR partner for Ty Lawson, so that’s an even sweeter deal.
12. Orlando Magic – Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Gordon and Exum is a great haul for the Magic. Even though their team at this point has absolutely no outside shooting, the athleticism and defensive capabilities of this team are very enticing. Gordon makes Tobias Harris expendable, and this is a good spot for him to develop as an athletic finisher, defender, and rebounder. Think Kenneth Faried if he could protect the rim.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Rodney Hood, Duke
Hood’s offensive capabilities are well known, and the Timberwolves could use a player like him to be their third wing. Hood can score on off-ball cuts nicely, which makes him very enticing to pair with Ricky Rubio, and can stretch the floor as a developing outside shooter. He’s a better fit with Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin than those two are with each other, and he should be able to contribute immediately to what should be a much better offensive team.
14. Phoenix Suns – James Young, Kentucky
Young is a strong, athletic two-way prospect that needs a little bit of time to develop, and a good system to make sure he doesn’t turn into Nick Young or J.R. Smith (Which I want, but you don’t want as a team). Phoenix has all of that, and could use an off-ball rim attacker and more natural shoting guard. Young would be a nice fit here.
15. Atlanta Hawks – Gary Harris, Michigan State
Atlanta could really use a more traditional shooting guard, too. Much like Phoenix, they got away with a lot of two-point guard and two-small forward sets last year, and could probably use another slasher as well. Harris looks like that type of player, and his stock has fallen a tad in recent weeks. He’s a great value at this spot in the draft regardless of team, and he could work great as a shot creator and defender for the Hawks.
16. Chicago Bulls – Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
This is another value and fit pick. I’ve been pretty persistent that the Bulls need a safety valve as a pure point guard behind Derrick Rose, and that’s exactly what Ennis is. He’d definitely help facilitate a stronger and more fluid offense for the Bulls, and would be a nice three-point shooter as well. They could use him as a D.J. Augustin replacement, and he’d actually be good!
17. Boston Celtics – Clint Capela, Switzerland
With Smart in tow, Boston’s focus should shift to the frontcourt, where Capela is perhaps the best player for them to pair with Jared Sullinger in the frontcourt. Capela is first and foremost a rim protector, and that’s a great need for the Celtics. Even if they make a move for Kevin Love or Greg Monroe this offseason, they’ll still need rim protection, and Capela could bring that along with great finishing touch inside.
18. Phoenix Suns – Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Phoenix also could use another frontcourt player and rim protector, and Payne makes a lot of sense for them. Phoenix seems to value bigs who can shoot from outside, and Payne can do that; he can also finish well in traffic and looks like a solid defensive player. He will likely be an impactful contributor immediately for the Suns alongside Markieff Morris, Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee.
19. Chicago Bulls – Zach Lavine, UCLA
The Bulls backcourt was an atrocity last year, and even with Ennis already in tow, I don’t think they’ll rule out grabbing another guard. Lavine has the athletic ability to be a nice prospect as a defensive player, and his scoring ability will pair well with Ennis. Thibs could get a lot of use out of Lavine, and it’s a nice spot for him to develop into more of a shooting guard.
20. Toronto Raptors – T.J. Warren, N.C. State
Warren fits what the Raptors like on the wing, as he’s a good scorer and off-ball cutter that can shoot a little bit from the outside. There are questions about his defensive ability, but the Raptors play solid team defense, and he has the size the team is lacking at the wing spots. He’s another one who could come in and contribute immediately as a bench scorer, and would ensure John Salmons sees less playing time.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
Another backup wing with defensive versatility for the Thunder. McDaniels can definitely replace what Thabo Sefolosha can do, allowing them to let him walk. He also can play the three in small-ball looks, and is a developing shooter that eventually should be able to be an offensive weapon as well. McDaniels on the Thunder is cooking with straight gasoline.
22. Memphis Grizzlies – Elfrid Payton, UL-Lafayette
Memphis could really use any perimeter player to supplement their bench, but Payton might be the best fit for what they like to do. He can attack the rim, distribute, and defend really well, and seems perfect for Grit’N’Grind-ball.
23. Utah Jazz – P.J. Hairston, Texas Legends
I don’t like the Jazz taking a guard at No. 5, but at 23, someone like Hairston makes sense. He’s a strong shooter and developing defender, and while he’s a bit of a character red flag, this is a team full of great guys with a solid locker room dynamic. Hairston’s fit here is a solid one.
24. Charlotte Hornets – Jordan Adams, UCLA
Charlotte’s already grabbed a solid forward in McDermott, and could shift their focus to another athletic wing to team with Gerald Henderson and MKG. Adams fits the style of wing the Hornets seem to like in their offense, in that he can attack the basket and shoot pretty well. He needs some defensive development, but he’s a solid choice at 24.
25. Houston Rockets – Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Anderson’s value is far too good to pass up here. He can shoot it a bit, is long enough to develop into a decent defensive player, and adds a fun dynamic with his passing ability. He will take one year as Chandler Parsons’ understudy, and then potentially transition into the Rockets’ incredibly fluid offense as a starter.
26. Miami Heat – Shabazz Napier, UConn
Mario Chalmers will hit the market this summer, and Norris Cole is an RFA the season after. Napier fits the style of point guard that Miami has been using in the LeBron era, and he’s a nice safety valve if Chalmers gets hilariously overpaid by someone else this offseason.
27. Phoenix Suns – Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia
The Suns won’t use all of their picks on players who will join the team immediately. Porzingis can run the floor and has good shooting mechanics, and seems like the type of player who will be able to contribute to the Suns. Granted, that might be in 2019. But still.
28. Los Angeles Clippers – Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
The Clippers need a big, and Stokes would fit well as a power rebounder off the bench. He doesn’t have much upside and is a bit undersized, but Stokes can do one thing extremely well, and that’s a thing the Clippers could use behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder – Mitch McGary, Michigan
In addition to McDaniels, the Thunder could use another bench big. McGary can run the floor extremely well, score and rebound. If he can keep from continually violating sports’ dumbest rule, he’s a nice fit for what OKC wants to do.
30. San Antonio Spurs – Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia
Another bottom five pick in the first round, another player who will win the Spurs a playoff game off the bench in the latter part of this decade after developing in Europe.
31. Milwaukee Bucks – C.J. Wilcox, Washington
Another shooter who’s NBA-ready would be nice for the Bucks with Wiggins, and Wilcox can basically be a clean and efficient O.J. Mayo.
32. Philadelphia 76ers – Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
Philly has a shooter, a point guard, and two solid posts. Early would join that group as someone who could play three or four, play solid defense, and attack the basket with impunity.
33. Cleveland Cavaliers – Glenn Robinson III, Michigan
An Alonzo Gee upgrade who would probably spend half the season in Canton, then might be able to transfer into the rotation as a spot-up shooter and transition finisher. Even if the Cavs take Parker or Wiggins with the top pick, Robinson can play next to either and is the best player available.