Gonzalez's 2014 NBA mock draft 1.0

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Gonzalez's 2014 NBA mock draft 1.0

This is not a ranking of players. You can find my latest list of top prospects here. This is also not the order I would necessarily select players in, but rather the order I believe they might go according to various team needs and tendencies in a parallel draft universe without trades. No trades here. Dream those up on your own.

(And if you'd like to compare, here are Amy Fadool's mock and Sean Kane's.)

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Joel Embiid, C, 7-0/250, Kansas
Putting aside the Cavs’ uncanny luck and the fact that they don’t deserve this pick, Embiid would fit nicely. His back (he suffered a stress fracture that caused him to miss the back end of the college season) is supposedly healthy, and he reportedly looked good in recent workouts. The Cavs could use a wing, so Andrew Wiggins is a possibility here, but they also need a paint presence. Anderson Varejao will be 32 next season, and Tristan Thompson remains inconsistent. Tough to pass on a center with Embiid’s size and mobility. Not even the Cavs can screw this up. Probably.

2. Milwaukee Bucks  Andrew Wiggins, SF, 6-8/200, Kansas
And the city of Philadelphia weeps. I’d like to believe that Embiid or Wiggins fall to the 76ers, but I don’t see it happening. The Bucks' roster is a mess. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a potential star. John Henson is only 23, and he’s emerging as a terrific rim protector. Larry Sanders can be a top-tier defender, but he’s a crazy person who can’t be counted on. Beyond that, the Bucks don’t have much (depending on how you feel about Brandon Knight, who’s still only 22). Wiggins is the easy pick for Milwaukee. The right pick, too. Curses.

3. Philadelphia 76ers  Jabari Parker, SF, 6-8/241, Duke
If Embiid and Wiggins are already off the board, I’d take Dante Exum and worry about the fit with MCW later. Alas, I won’t be making the selection. And I’m still not sure that the Sixers are all that enamored with Parker. Yes, he’s regarded as the most polished scorer among this tier of players, but I have questions. Can he guard wings in the NBA? Or power forwards? And can he stay in shape for a coach that talks about skinfold as often as pace? This is the safe pick. Here’s hoping Sam Hinkie pulls off another spectacular and unexpected draft night move and goes a different way.

4. Orlando Magic  Dante Exum, PG, 6-6/196, Australia
Victor Oladipo and Exum in the same backcourt. Orlando is happy. I am less happy.

5. Utah Jazz  Noah Vonleh, PF, 6-10/247, Indiana
This is a bad spot for the Jazz. They have Trey Burke at point and Gordon Hayward at shooting guard (assuming the restricted free agent re-signs, which me might not). Power forward Derrick Favors and center Enes Kanter are only 22. The Jazz could really use a wing here, or even another shooting guard. There just aren’t any to be had. Maybe they trade out of the pick. If not, they grab Vonleh, who might have the best chance to stretch the floor among this tier of forwards (even though he wasn’t really used that way at Indiana). He had great measureables at the combine. Still a disappointment for the Jazz, who would probably like to get Parker. (Ring, ring. Hello, Sam Hinkie? Utah Jazz hereLet’s talk shop.)

6. Boston Celtics  Julius Randle, PF, 6-9/234, Kentucky
Lots of trade rumors out there for the Celtics. Entirely possible they move this pick in their quest for Kevin Love or someone more suitable than whoever’s available at No. 6. If they stick, they could use a power forward. Their current crop includes Brandon Bass and … yeah, pretty much just Brandon Bass. That’s awful. Randle would be a huge upgrade. Instant double-double machine with Rajon Rondo getting him looks. If they keep Rondo. Which they might not. The Celtics are a chose-your-own adventure story at this point. Countless paths with countless potential endings.

7. Los Angeles Lakers  Aaron Gordon, SF, 6-9/220, Arizona
Kobe Bryant will be 36 in August and he’s coming off two serious injuries. The Lakers want to win now because of Kobe, and because the Lakers always want to win now. Wouldn’t be surprised if they unload this pick. Perhaps they’d be interested in moving it for some combination of Thaddeus Young and the No. 10? (Ring, ring. Hello, Sam Hinkie? L.A. Lakers hereLet’s talk shop.) If not, Gordon is the consolation prize. Super athletic. 

8. Sacramento Kings  Marcus Smart, PG, 6-3/227, Oklahoma St.
For a team that won just 28 games, the Kings’ roster isn’t bad. DeMarcus Cousins is a double-double monster. Rudy Gay makes entirely too much money, but he played well for them after getting traded from Toronto. They drafted Ben McLemore last year. Honestly don’t know which way they go here. Isaiah Thomas was really solid for them once he got the starting job. I like Thomas a lot (especially in fantasy; hello fellow nerds). But he’s a restricted free agent this summer and might get an offer the Kings don’t want to match. It wouldn’t surprise me if they move on. Putting Smart here because he’s considerably bigger than Thomas (5-9, 185) and because I think he’s the best player left. There’s a big drop off to the next tier.

9. Charlotte Hornets  Doug McDermott, SF, 6-8/218, Creighton
The Hornets are back in Charlotte. Somewhere, Grandmama smiles, but maybe not because of the pick. Everyone loves McBuckets. I’m not as sold. He can shoot, but can he defend wings or power forwards in the NBA? Eh. The Hornets can have him.

10. Philadelphia 76ers  Dario Saric, SF/PF, 6-10/223, Croatia
Big. Can run the floor. Good passer. Still working on his perimeter shooting. But a pretty efficient scorer. Had a 58 true shooting percentage this year in the Adriatic League. As I’ve written, a forward with that kind of skill set makes me giddy. There are questions about whether he wants to stay in Europe for another year (he just turned 20 in April). And Amy Fadool mentioned reports that he might want to play for only the Lakers or Celtics. Because Amy Fadool wants to wound me. Ignoring the negativity, I love the idea of grabbing a frontcourt player who would complement Noel rather than overlap with him. Yes, please. I even asked nicely.

11. Denver Nuggets  Nik Stauskas, SG, 6-7, 207/Michigan
Randy Foye just had his best season as a pro, but he’s 30. (Randy Foye is 30? Kill me.) Evan Fournier is the backup and he’s only 21, but he’s not blocking anyone’s path. The Nuggets could use a wing, actually. Maybe they go for James Young. But Stauskas is the higher rated player. And he can shoot (44 percent from three on 5.8 attempts per game). The question is whether he can do anything else.

12. Orlando Magic  James Young, SF, 6-8, 213/Kentucky
If Saric is still on the board, could see the Magic grabbing him and pairing him with Nik Vucevic, who has a decidedly different skill set. Hopefully Saric is already on his way to the states to further Philly-Croatian basketball diplomacy. If not, the Magic could use a talented wing. (I don’t think Mo Harkless is it, and Tobias Harris remains inconsistent.) Young has huge upside.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Gary Harris, SG, 6-4/205, Michigan St.
The Wolves are in a tough spot. The Wolves are always in a tough spot. Even with Kevin Martin, they still need more perimeter shooting. But they’re going to lose Love. He’s not staying in Minnesota, which means they have to move him between now and next offseason. I’d take Adreian Payne here. Another big guy who can stretch the floor and shoot from the perimeter. (Have I mentioned how much I like those guys?). But the Wolves are the Wolves, so I’m sure they’ll botch it somehow. Harris is a good way to do that. He’s billed as a shooter, but he hit a not-so-impressive 35.2 percent of his threes last year on a 6.6 attempts per game. Ho-hum.

14. Phoenix Suns  Rodney Hood, SF, 6-8/215, Duke
The Suns run two point guards who are excellent: Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. They have the Morris twins and Channing Frye (another stretch) at forward. They have Miles Plumlee (who played surprisingly well last year) and Alex Len (who is raw, suffered through injuries and appeared in just 42 games) at center. They could use a wing. P.J. Tucker is the closest they have to one, which means that spot needs an upgrade.

15. Atlanta Hawks  Zach LaVine, PG/SG, 6-6/181, UCLA
He’s probably more of a one than a two. The Hawks already have Jeff Teague at the point, and they need a wing more than anything (who doesn’t?). But if LaVine lasts this long, the Hawks should grab him. He’s super athletic and had an excellent showing at the combine. He could spell Teague at the point, or perhaps the Hawks will experiment with both in the backcourt. LaVine had a streaky shooting season for the Bruins but still hit 37.5 percent from three and 44 percent from the floor.

16. Chicago Bulls  Adreian Payne, PF, 6-10/239, Michigan St.
Finally. Boy do I love me some Adreian Payne. Big. Can rebound, shoot from the outside (42.3 percent on 3.4 attempts per game), and he makes free throws (79 percent). Carlos Boozer has a massive contract (one more year remaining at $16.8 million) that the Bulls would like to unload. Either way, he’s gone soon enough. Yes, they still have Taj Gibson, but he’s not exactly a stretch four. And, besides, they found ways to get minutes for Boozer and Gibson. Now they can find minutes for Payne and Gibson.

17. Boston Celtics  P.J. Hairston, SG, 6-5/230, NBDL
Everyone forgets about Hairston, who left North Carolina because of some drama. Perhaps the Celtics won’t. Boston needs perimeter scoring, which Hairston can provide. Plus, he’s a big boy.

18. Phoenix Suns  Jerami Grant, SF, 6-8/215, Syracuse
The Suns have an embarrassment of picks. What a fun organization they’ve become. I think they double up on small forwards here and let them battle it out for playing time. Perhaps they’ll hold auditions the way the Joker did in The Dark Knight, though that could get messy. And they’d need a pool stick. Anyway, Grant isn’t a perimeter shooter (he took just five threes last year), but he’s athletic and he’ll be able to run with the Suns. Besides, the Suns already have plenty of three-ball shooting.

19. Chicago Bulls  Tyler Ennis, PG, 6-3/182, Syracuse
D.J. Augustin had a surprisingly good season for them, but he’s a free agent. Derrick Rose is one of the best players in the league -- provided he’s healthy, which he hasn’t been in quite a while. At the least, the Bulls need a backup point guard. Ennis would be a good one. Had an outstanding assist-to-turnover ratio (5.5 apg, 1.7 tpg) last season.

20. Toronto Raptors – Kyle Anderson, SF, 6-9/230, UCLA
He has a really interesting game. Big body with a wide skill set. Hard to tell where he’ll play in the NBA, but at this point in the draft, he’d be a nice fit for an up-and-coming Raptors team. They’d better re-sign Kyle Lowry (he’s a free agent), though, otherwise the whole thing falls apart.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder  T.J. Warren, SF, 6-8/215, N.C. State
Value pick. Not a lead of needs for the Thunder. They could certainly use more outside shooting. Maybe C.J. Wilcox here, though it feels a touch early for him. So, yeah, Warren. He can score -- mainly by slashing to the basket. Good enough.

22. Memphis Grizzlies  Cleanthony Early, SF, 6-7/210, Wichita St.
Shooting up the mocks. Before the NCAA tournament, it was hard to find a draft projection that had him in the first round. Now quite a few do. I like him better than the two guys who went ahead of him here. Had a good combine, he can get to the basket and shoot the three (37.6 percent on 4.9 attempts per game), and he rebounds well. He’ll fit right in with Mike Conley and the Grizzlies.

23. Utah Jazz  K.J. McDaniels, SF, 6-6/195, Clemson
They need a wing. They get a wing. He’s not super big, but he’s a capable rebounder and sneaky shot blocker. Needs to develop an outside shot. He hit just 30.4 percent from three last year (3.8 attempts per game).

24. Charlotte Hornets  Kristaps Porzingis, PF, 7-0/220, Latvia
He’s 6-11, 220? Someone needs to feed this kid a sandwich. A good shot blocker who needs to polish his offensive game. He’s only 18. He’s a project with potential.

25. Houston Rockets  Jusuf Nurkic, C, 6-11/280, Bosnia
Bigs are always valuable. Maybe the Rockets finally figure out a way to move Omer Asik. Or maybe not.

26. Miami Heat  Elfrid Payton, PG, 6-4/185, Louisiana Lafayette
Good handle and explosive in transition. And he’s a solid defender. Good spot for him. The Heat might need help at the point. Mario Chalmers is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

27. Phoenix Suns  Mitch McGary, PF, 6-10/250, Michigan
The Suns will have to get special dispensation from the league to double their roster size and accommodate all these picks. So, so many picks. McGary hurt his back in the fall, but he’s reportedly healthy. He left for the NBA earlier than expected after getting into a wee bit of trouble. Totally should have said it was medicinal. Back pain, dude.

28. Los Angeles Clippers – C.J. Wilcox, SG, 6-5/200, Washington
They’re locked into J.J. Redick through 2017. Beyond that, the shooting guard situation needs help. Jamal Crawford is on a non-guaranteed deal for next year, and he’s 34. Willie Green is 32, and he’s somehow still in the league. No one is afraid of Reggie Bullock. Wilcox would help. He’s an excellent shooter (39.1 percent from three on 7.2 attempts per game last year). The Clips have a veteran cast. They shouldn’t mind that he’s already 23 and will turn 24 before the year is out. 

29. Oklahoma City Thunder  Clint Capela, PF, 6-11/222, Switzerland
What do you mean Clint Capela lasted this long? The Swiss will be up in arms. For once. But probably not. Just turned 20. The Thunder can afford to let him develop for a while in Europe.

30. San Antonio Spurs  Shabazz Napier, PG, 6-1/175, Connecticut
The Spurs' backup point guard situation is suspect: Patty Mills and Cory Joseph. Napier slides from one championship team to an organization that has plenty of its own titles.

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

BOX SCORE

SAN ANTONIO -- Stephen Curry scored 36 points as the Golden State Warriors closed out the Western Conference Final against the injury-ravaged San Antonio Spurs with a 129-115 victory Monday night, becoming the first team in league history to start the playoffs 12-0.

Golden State led by as many as 22 points in cruising to its third straight NBA Finals. The Warriors await a possible third straight championship matchup with Cleveland, which leads Boston 2-1 in the East finals.

"It's great to be one of the last two teams standing, we'll see how it goes," said Kevin Durant, who had 29 points and 12 rebounds.

San Antonio's only lead came on the opening possession when Manu Ginobili tossed in a left-handed scoop shot. The Spurs started Ginobili in what could be his final game with the team. The 39-year-old had maintained he will not ponder whether to retire or return until after the season.

Unsure if the beloved veteran will return, the crowd serenaded Ginobili with "Manu, Manu" chants as the game came to a close.

"An amazing competitor, even more fun playing against him," Durant said of Ginobili. "He was phenomenal this series."

Kyle Anderson scored 20 points to lead the Spurs, who were without Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and David Lee. San Antonio didn't go down without a fight despite the injuries.

Anderson dove on the court for a loose ball that the Spurs had tipped away defensively, pushing the ball upcourt to Patty Mills who fed Ginobili for a 3-pointer that pulled San Antonio to 108-94 with 7 minutes remaining.

The effort made Spurs coach Gregg Popovich smile and clap at times, but the Warriors' depth and talent proved too much for short-handed San Antonio.

Golden State shot 56 percent and were 14 for 39 on 3-pointers.

Draymond Green had 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Warriors.

Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge closed out a disappointing series with his second eight-point effort against the Warriors.

Ginobili finished with 15 points in 32 minutes.

The case for Duke's Jayson Tatum to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Duke's Jayson Tatum to the Sixers at No. 3

With the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery behind us, there appears to be a consensus on the first two selections in next month's draft. The Celtics are expected to take Washington guard Markelle Fultz, and it would be a surprise if the Lakers passed on Lonzo Ball.

After that, all bets are off, and the Sixers will have plenty of options at pick No. 3.

A popular choice has been Kansas' Josh Jackson, and with good reason. The 6-foot-8 guard was an All-Big 12 first-team selection in his lone season with the Jayhawks, averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

Others have pointed to Kentucky sharpshooter Malik Monk, who would fill an obvious need. Monk consistently has shown the ability to pull up without hesitation. He shot nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 19.8 points per game to lead the Wildcats.

There is a strong case to be made, however, that Duke forward Jayson Tatum will be the most talented player remaining on the board when it is the Sixers' turn to pick. 

As a basketball beat writer for The Duke Chronicle, I had the opportunity to watch Tatum play up close and in-person for much of the season, seeing him at his best and his worst.

A quick rise
After coming to Durham, N.C. as one of the key pieces of the Blue Devils' top-ranked recruiting class, Tatum suffered a left foot sprain during a preseason practice that kept him out of action until early December. 

But even with what appeared to be a breakout performance against then-No. 24 Florida in early December, he struggled to find a rhythm throughout the first half of the season. Tatum shot only 30 percent from three-point range in his first 13 games.

When the Blue Devils were shocked at home by ACC bottom-feeder N.C. State Jan. 23, I was quick to call out the first-year player — he was not cutting it on the defensive end, and offensively, Tatum had yet to prove himself as a consistent shooting threat.

Down the stretch, however, no freshman came on stronger than Tatum. He scored 28 points on 6-of-7 shooting from distance against Virginia in February, averaged 22 points in four ACC tournament wins in March, and notched a double-double in his first career NCAA tournament game.

Whatever questions scouts have about Tatum's potential, he has already shown an ability to develop in a short period of time. Even if Tatum takes time to develop as an NBA player, it probably won't take all that long as the Sixers continue their rebuild.

Cool customer
In a deep ACC, Tatum was one of just two first-year players to earn all-conference honors, picking up a third-team spot in early March. He was also second in ACC Freshman of the Year voting behind N.C. State's Dennis Smith.

Tatum been a consistent performer at the charity stripe — unlike Jackson, who shot just 56.6 percent from the line. He hit on 118 of 139 free-throw attempts (84.9 percent) and has the body to get to the line at will with strong drives to the rim.

Although the Sixers have budding stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, they lack a true end-of-game threat who can score both inside and out. Tatum's improving outside shot combined with a powerful inside game could give the Sixers an option that will stretch opposing defenses.

Defensive concerns
As has been the case with a few recent young Duke prospects (e.g. Brandon Ingram, Jabari Parker), Tatum at times struggled on defense. As Sixers fans know all too well, Jahlil Okafor has the same problem. The former Blue Devil standout led Duke in scoring during his lone collegiate season but wasn't a major factor on defense and has been even worse with the Sixers, ranking 324th of 486 NBA players in defensive win shares last season.

Tatum's numbers suggest he has potential to be a better defender than many might expect. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Tatum had a 3.2 block percentage and a 2.3 steal percentage — an uncommon combination. He helped Duke limit North Carolina's Justin Jackson to only 6-for-22 shooting in an ACC tournament semifinal matchup.

Where Tatum needs to grow is guarding away from the ball. He often found himself losing his man on back cuts and long possessions in the half-court.

With the Sixers, the 6-foot-8 Tatum potentially could be the shortest member of a lineup that would feature the 6-foot-9 Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Simmons at 6-foot-10, and the 7-foot Embiid in the middle. Although he will likely need to improve his quickness, Tatum has the size to overwhelm smaller guards and the strength — weighing in at 205 pounds — to match up with most small forwards in the league.

Tatum vs. Jackson
Tatum and Jackson are comparable players in most respects. The two were right next to one another in the ESPN's Class of 2016 rankings behind Harry Giles and put up nearly identical numbers on the offensive end.

Both are considered top-five picks, but the 19-year-old Tatum is younger by more than a year and has room to grow physically. And unlike Jackson, he does not carry the baggage of a criminal property damage misdemeanor from December.

Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel told 97.5 The Fanatic last week that Tatum is "one of the most talented, most gifted offensive guys" he has ever seen. 

Agreed.