Monday, June 23, 2014

2014 NBA Draft Preview: Eastern Conference

All credit goes to guest writer, Nick Schwalbach. Follow him at @Lookin4Strage and visit his site Brew City Breakdown for more.

Cleveland Cavaliers (33-49)- SG, SF, C (1, 33)
After a disappointing year in which PG Kyrie Irving seemingly failed to get any better, 2013 #1 overall pick Anthony Bennett ate his way into the D-League, and C Andrew Bynum played like, well, Andrew Bynum, the Cavaliers somehow beat the odds once again and landed the #1 overall pick in the 2014 draft.  The Cavs will likely choose between 1 of 3 players: Kansas C Joel Embiid, Kansas SF Andrew Wiggins, and Duke SF Jabari Parker.  You could argue any of the 3 players without receiving too much flack from anyone, but ultimately I think if Embiid's back clears Cavs medical testing, he will be the pick.  Well, that is unless Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert gets in the way of new Cavs GM David Griffin doing his job.  Gilbert will pound the table for Parker because he is the most NBA ready of the 3.  With their 2nd rd pick, #33 overall, I'd look for the Cavs too add a 3 and D wing like Michigan SF Glenn Robinson III or Oklahoma St SG Markel Brown.

Milwaukee Bucks (15-67) SG, PF, C (2, 31, 36, 48)

Coming into the 2013-14 season, many had pegged the Bucks for yet another year of mediocrity and one of the final playoff spots in the East.  That was hardly the case as the Bucks finished with the leagues worst record and now find themselves with the #2 pick in the draft.  The Bucks have some nice young pieces to build around, most notably SF Giannis Antetokounmpo, combo G Brandon Knight, and C Larry Sanders.  Assuming that Kansas C Joel Embiid goes #1 to the Cavs, the Bucks will likely decide between Duke SF Jabari Parker and Kansas SF Andrew Wiggins.  Either player will be an instant upgrade on the wing, with Parker being the more NBA ready of the 2.  In the 2nd round look for the Bucks to add depth to their front court and International players that they can stash in Europe for a few years.

Philadelphia 76ers (19-63)- SG, SF (3, 10, 32, 39, 52, 54)
The 76ers had no qualms about tanking in the 2013-14 season, even tying the NBA record with 27 consecutive losses.  That is not to say that there isn't any reason for optimism in Philly.  2013 1st rd pick PG Michael Carter-Williams was voted the rookie of the year after a season in which he averaged 17 pts 6 rebounds and 6 assists.  Fellow 2013 1st rdr C Nerlens Noel was hurt all year but figures to be a dominant defensive big man for years too come.  The Sixers have a dearth of picks in this draft, including 2 in the top 10.  I have a hunch that at pick #3, the Sixers have very little interest in Duke SF Jabari Parker.  If Embiid goes to #1 to the Cavs, I expect the Sixers to offer the Bucks picks #3 and #10 for the 2nd overall pick to draft Kansas SF Andrew Wiggins.  If the Sixers can't get a deal done with the Bucks, I could see the Sixers drafting Dante Exum and proceeding to trade MCW.  As far as the 2nd round is concerned, I expect the Sixers to draft high upside and international players that they can stash in both the NBDL and Europe respectively.

Orlando Magic (23-59)- PG, PF (4, 12)

For the 2nd consecutive season, the Magic failed to win 25 games and find themselves with a top 5 pick once again.  The Magic have some nice young pieces to build around including C Nikola Vucevic, SG Aaron Afflalo, SF/PF Tobias Harris, and 2013 #2 overall pick SG Victor Oladipo, who finished 2nd in the Rookie of The Year voting.  Coming into the 2014 draft, the Magic have 2 1st rd picks, #4 and #12.  With the 4th overall pick, I fully expect the Magic to be choose a PG, particularly either Int'l Combo PG Dante Exum or Oklahoma St PG Marcus Smart.  Exum is widely regarded as the better prospect, but it is important to remember that the Magic would likely have take Smart with the 2nd overall pick in the 2013 draft had he kept his name in it.  With the 12th overall pick, I see the Magic targeting a young wing player who can replace Afflalo once his contract expires next season.  Names to watch at #12 would be Kentucky Wing James Young and Duke Wing Rodney Hood.

Boston Celtics (25-57)- SG, PF, C (6, 17)
The Celtics had one of there worst seasons in recent memory in 2013-14, winning fewer than 30 games for only the 2nd times in the last 15 yrs.  Further problems lay ahead for the Celtics including bad the bad contracts of SF's Gerald Wallace and Jeff Green, and PF Brandon Bass combining for roughly $27 million next season and $20 million the season after that.  Despite these problems, their are plenty of reasons to be optimistic moving forward if you are a Celtics fan.  First off is Minnesota Twolve's PF Kevin Love's apparent interest in playing in Boston.  Packaging their 2 first round picks this year with future picks,  SF Gerald Wallace, and PF Jared Sullinger would likely be enough to get a trade done to land the superstar PF.  Combine him with Rajon Rondo and you have the makings of a solid young team in Boston.  If the Celtics were unable to make a deal for Love, I would look for the Celtics to draft one of the 2 young/mature PF's who would likely be available at #6 overall: Kentucky PF Julius Randle or Arizona PF Aaron Gordon.  Rumors have been floating around that Celtics GM Danny Ainge prefers the uber athletic Gordon.  With their 2nd pick in the 1st rd, #17 overall, I would look for the Celtics to upgrade their wing scoring, particularly at the 2 guard.  The Celtics would like it if one of Michigan SG Nik Stauskas or Michigan St SG Gary Harris would slip to them, but they would likely settle for a SF like Kentucky's James Young or Duke's Rodney Hood.

Atlanta Hawks (38-44)- SG, SF (15, 43)
Despite losing their best player, C Al Horford, to a season ending injury just 29 games into the season, the Hawks were able to hold off the Knicks and land the 8th seed in the East.  The Hawks were able to parlay career yr's from players like PG Jeff Teague, SF Demare Carroll, and newly acquired PF Paul Millsap into a 6 gm series loss to eventual Eastern Conference finalist Indiana Pacers.  Unfortunately for the Hawks, because they made the playoffs their 2014 draft position suffered, settling for the #15 and #43 picks in the 1st and 2nd rds respectively.  With the 15th overall pick, I'd look for the Hawks to address their #1 area of weakness: Wing legnth and Scoring.  Look for them to target players like Kentucky's SF James Young,  Duke's SF Rodney Hood, or draft wildcard UCLA's SF Kyle Anderson.  With their 2nd rd pick, I'd look for the Hawks to add size and length to their frontcourt (particularly at the 4).  A player like Stanford PF Dwight Powell or Tennessee PF Jarnell Stokes would be ideal fits in Atlanta. 

Chicago Bulls (48-34)- PG, SF, C (16, 19, 49)
Another season brought yet another knee injury to former MVP PG Derrick Rose, but Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau worked another miracle to get the Bulls back into the playoffs once again.  The Bulls front office may decide to draft a PG with one of their 2 1st round selections to  hedge their bets against yet another Rose injury.  If this is the case look for Bulls to take a hard look at Syracuse PG Tyer Ennis or UL-Lafayette PG Elfrid Payton at #16.  At pick #19 the Bulls could look to address weakness on their roster, the ability to score the basketball.  A player like Duke SF Rodney Hood or NC State SF TJ Warren would help solve that problem.

Toronto Raptors (48-34)- PG, PF (20, 37, 59)
Most pundits had the Raptors winning 38-40 games and fighting for the one of the final playoff spots in the East.  But career yrs from PG Kyle Lowry and SG Demar Derozan pushed the Raptors forward to 48 wins and the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  The Raptors would ultimately fall in 7 games to the Nets in the 1st rd of the playoffs.  Despite all of this, the Raptors have a roster that's in flux this offseason.  Superstar Kyle Lowry, PG Greivis Vasquez, and PF Amir Johnson are free agents that may be hard to retain. (particularly lowry).  That being said, with their 1st Rd pick, #20 overall, I would look for the Raptors to draft a PG like Syracuse's Tyler Ennis or UL-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton to hedge their bets against Lowry leaving in Free Agency.  With their 2 picks in the 2nd Rd, I would look for the Raptors to draft a defensive minded PF like UNLV's Khem Birch and a backup C like Int'l big man, 7'3" 260 lbs, Walter Tavares.  Both players would add size and length to a Raptors roster that currently lacks it.

Detroit Pistons (29-53) SF, Stretch PF, 3 Pt Shooting
The Pistons took a big risk by signing SF/PF Josh Smith to a 4 yr $52 million last offseason, but that move backfired as he was a poor fit with the young Detroit front line of PF Greg Monroe and C Andre Drummond.  Heading into the 2014 draft, the Pistons may be best off trading Monroe for a high draft pick that they can turn into a Stretch PF that would compliment the interior play of both Smith and Drummond.  The backcourt of the future seems to be set with both PG Brandon Jennings and 2013 #8 overall pick SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.  As it stands the Pistons only have a 2nd Rd pick, #38 overall, with which I would look for the Pistons to draft a SF or PF who can shoot the 3 ball and stretch the floor for both Smith and Drummond.

New York Knicks (37-45)- PG, PF (N/A)
After a year in which the Knicks failed to come close to their preseason expectations, the Knicks are in rough shape this offseason.  The Knicks lack any sort of cap flexibility to make any additions to upgrade the teams roster.  Furthermore the Knicks do not have any picks in this year's draft and have no valuable/affordable trade pieces to acquire picks to add to a lacksluster and aging roster.  Unless they are willing to trade a future 1st rd pick for a late first rd or early 2nd rd pick, the Knicks will be quiet on draft night.

Brooklyn Nets (44-38)- SF, Youth (N/A)

Last years trade to acquire Paul Piece, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry from the Celtics has stripped the Nets of their picks in this year’s draft.  With no valuable/affordable trade pieces at their disposal, the Nets will not be making any picks in this year’s draft.

Washington Wizards (44-38)- PF, Post Defense (46)
The Wizards had a breakthrough season in 2013-14, winning 44 games en route to a 5 seed in the playoffs.  They would win their opening round series against the Bulls, but fall to the Pacers in the 2nd round.  The backcourt of PG John Wall and SG Bradley Beal proved to be one of the best young backcourts in the league and should have Wizard fans excited for the future.  The jury is still out on the 3rd overall pick in the 2013 draft, SF Otto Porter, who hardly looked like an NBA player in the few minutes he played last season.  The Wizards only have their 2nd rd pick (#46 overall) this year, after trading their 1st rd pick to the Suns in the deal that brought Marcin Gortat to Washington.  Look for the Wizards to address their lack of front depth, particularly a defensive big man.

Indiana Pacers (56-26)- PG, Wing (57)       
It was an odd year for the Indiana Pacers.  For much of the first 50 games, the Pacers were regarded as the best team in the NBA.  For reasons unknown to most, things went downhill fast for the Pacers in the 2nd half eventually leading them to be ousted in 6 games in the Eastern Conference finals by the Miami Heat.  It's going to be hard for the Pacers to drastically improve this offseason as they are cash strapped (resigning Lance Stephenson being the #1 priority) and do not have any 1st rd picks to speak of.  With their only pick being in the 2nd rd, #57 overall, id look for the Pacers to draft a wing who can shoot it from deep or add a European player who they can stash in Europe for a few years to develop.

Miami Heat (54-28)- SG, PF, Post defense (26, 55)
As of this writing, the Heat are matched up with the Spurs in the NBA finals for the 2nd consecutive yr.   They still have the best player in the world in SF Lebron James and surround him with 2 strong veterans in SG Dwayne Wade and C Chris Bosh.  The rest of the Heat roster is filled mostly with solid role players whom are on short term contracts, so they will be looking for cheap players to fill those roster spots.  One area of concern heading into the 2014-15 season will likely be the backup SG role that has largely been filled by future HOF'er Ray Allen.  He is on the last yr of his contract and will likely retire at the end of this season.  With their 1st rd pick, #26 overall, the Heat could look to address this weakness by adding a SG like NBDL star PJ Hairston, UCLA's Jordan Adams, or even Washington's CJ Wilcox.  The other area of concern heading into next yr will be post defense.  With backup C Chris "Birdman" Anderson being the only big with a contract next season, (other than Bosh) the Heat could look to add a big body to bang in the paint, particularly against C Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers.   A name to look out for at pick #26 is Croatian Jusuf Nurkic and and at #55 overall a player like LSU PF/C Johnny O'Bryant would seem to be a solid fit.

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