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2014 NBA draft: First-round grades

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, SG-SF, 6-8, 197, Fr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: He didn't rack up absurd scoring numbers like Kevin Durant or propel his team to a national title like Carmelo Anthony, but the one-and-done star still flashed enough upside to merit being a top pick. Wiggins showcased an ability to defend multiple positions, an explosive secondary jump around the rim and a knack for finishing with aplomb in transition. The top criticism of Wiggins: he wasn't assertive enough to take advantage of his physical gifts. In Kansas' stunning NCAA tournament loss to Stanford, he scored just four points and attempted only six shots, inexplicably floating around the perimeter. There's no doubt Wiggins has a tendency to coast, but he still has the ability to make an instant impact and get better in years to come. Marc Spears' draft grade: A.

2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, Duke, SF, 6-8, 235, Fr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: Of the top players in this year's draft, Parker appears to be the most polished, NBA-ready pick. His ceiling may not be quite as high as Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid, but the 6-foot-9 standout is further along than either of them. A tough matchup for opposing forwards because of his ball-handling and footwork at his size, Parker can back down smaller defenders in the post or take bigger, slower defenders off the dribble. Aside from a handful of games when he settled for too many contested jumpers, he was difficult to keep in check while in college. Parker must improve his defense, where his shortcomings contributed to Duke's inability to consistently get stops. Still, between his ability to score in multiple ways and his high character, Parker appears poised for a long, successful NBA career. Marc Spears' grade: B.

3. Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid, Kansas, C, 7-0, 240, Fr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: Had Embiid not added to concerns about his lingering back problems by also fracturing his right foot last week, he had a good chance of being selected No. 1 overall by the Cavaliers. Instead the 7-footer instantly became the lottery's biggest boom-or-bust gamble and slid to the Sixers at No. 3. The list of 7-footers derailed by foot and back injuries is long, but Embiid's upside had to make it difficult for general managers to pass on him despite the fear of drafting another Greg Oden. Even though the Cameroon native has played basketball for only a few years, he has soft touch, good footwork and uncanny shot-blocking timing to go with impressive size, length and athleticism. He projects as a defensive specialist right away in the NBA, but the potential is there for him to develop into a multi-dimensional scorer. Some scouts have said he's farther along than Hakeem Olajuwon was at the same stage of their developments. Marc Spears' grade: A.

4. Orlando Magic: Aaron Gordon, Arizona, PF, 6-9, 220, Fr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: The worst-case scenario for Gordon is that he makes an impact only with his relentless hustle, his ability to guard multiple positions and his knack for scoring in transition and via the offensive glass. Whether Gordon proves worthy of being taken in the lottery, however, depends on if he develops into a more skilled offensive threat. Gordon spent a lot of time on the perimeter as a freshman, and while he showed surprising passing ability, his jump shot and ball-handling remain weaknesses. He also doesn't have much of a back-to-the-basket game, scoring in the paint mostly via put-backs and alley-oop dunks. The 18-year-old Gordon is young enough and hard-working enough to turn some of his deficiencies into strengths in a few years. If he does, this could be a high-value pick.
Marc Spears' grade: A.

5. Utah Jazz: Dante Exum, Australian Institute of Sports, PG-SG, 6-6, 196
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: The last time NBA teams saw Exum play in a five-on-five setting, he was competing for Australia at the U-19 World Championships last July. Nonetheless, the Jazz felt comfortable spending a high pick on the draft's international man of mystery. The 6-foot-6 Exum, 18, burst onto the NBA radar last year at the prestigious Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, where he scored 16 points in a game that featured projected lottery picks such as Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. He also performed well in the medal round of the U-19 tournament, scorching Spain for 33 points and drawing praise for his quick first step to the rim, tremendous size and athleticism, and ability to play point guard. Those performances aren't much to go off, but they were enough to intrigue NBA teams. Marc Spears' grade: B.

6. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma St., PG-SG, 6-3, 227, So.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: Even though Smart shoved a fan, earned a reputation as a flopper and failed to lead his team to a single NCAA tournament victory this past season, the Oklahoma State guard's decision to return to school for his sophomore year really didn't hurt him. He still went nearly as high as he would have last June despite the draft being much deeper and stronger. What makes Smart worthy of a high pick is his strength, quickness, smothering defense, leadership and ability to attack the rim. He isn't a pure point guard and he doesn't shoot as well from the perimeter as most wings, but he'll work hard at turning those weaknesses into strengths. Plus, it's unfair to say he doesn't have a position, considering he can defend either guard spot. Marc Spears' grade: B.

Los Angeles
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, Kentucky, PF, 6-9, 250, Fr. .
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: Ask any of Kentucky's opponents what they feared most about the Wildcats this past season, and their answer will be the same: They did not want to let Randle destroy them on the offensive glass. He ranked fourth in the nation in offensive rebounds and second in defensive rebounds, while also displaying an ability to score through double teams on the block and sink an occasional mid-range jumper. One concern about Randle is that his broken right foot hasn't healed properly and may require surgery this summer. The other is whether he can continue to rely on overpowering defenders in the NBA the way he did in college. Randle has a strong upper body and uses his frame well to create space around the rim, but diversifying his arsenal of post moves would help, as would improving his ability to use his right hand rather than exclusively relying on his left. Marc Spears' grade: A.

8. Sacramento Kings: Nik Stauskas, Michigan, SG, 6-6, 207, So.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: Viewed as merely an elite shooter after his freshman season at Michigan, Stauskas proved his game has more dimensions as a sophomore. The 6-foot-6 guard replaced Trey Burke as Michigan's primary playmaker this past season, routinely beating his defender off the dribble via high pick-and-rolls and either finishing himself or setting up a teammate for an open look. He averaged 17.5 points and 3.3 assists, all while maintaining the 44 percent 3-point shooting that he displayed the previous year. Stauskas isn't a great defender or rebounder, but he's skilled enough offensively to be more than a role player at the NBA level. Look for him to make an impact with his shooting right away off the catch and dribble while eventually expanding his all-around game the way he did in college. Marc Spears' grade: B.

9. Charlotte Hornets (from Detroit): Noah Vonleh, Indiana, PF, 6-10, 240, Fr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: What stood out most about Vonleh at the NBA draft combine? His massive hands, which measured 11.75 inches wide and 9.75 inches long. Only one player, ex-Fresno State center Greg Smith, had larger hands than Vonleh since NBA officials began taking such measurements at the combine. Between his muscular 6-foot-9 frame, his impressive wingspan and athleticism, and those giant hands, Vonleh has the physical tools to become an excellent NBA power forward someday. The Hornets will have to be patient, because the 19-year-old still needs a fair amount of developmental work. He was an efficient scorer and excellent defensive rebounder in his lone season at Indiana, but he needs to expand his repertoire of interior moves and work harder to consistently get open in the post. Marc Spears' grade: B.

10. Orlando Magic (from Philadelphia): Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette, PG, 6-4, 185, Jr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: The Sixers made this pick for the Magic as part of the deal that sent the rights to Dario Saric to Philadelphia. This time last year, Payton needed a late plea from his coach just to earn a tryout for the U.S. U-19 World Championship team. Twelve months later, Payton walked across the stage and shook Adam Silver's hand as a first-round pick in the NBA draft. Making the U.S. team and excelling as a distributor, slasher and fierce defender. He then filled up the stat sheet as a junior at Louisiana-Lafayette, averaging 19.2 points, six rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals for a team that dominated its league but fell one win shy of the NCAA tournament. Payton has a glaring weakness — he's not a threat to shoot from the perimeter at all — but he rocketed up draft boards this month because his many strengths outweigh that one deficiency. Marc Spears' grade: A.

11. Chicago Bulls (from Denver): Doug McDermott, Creighton, PF, 6-8, 225, Sr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: The Nuggets made this pick for the Bulls as part of the deal that sent the 16th and 19th picks to the Sixers. The most remarkable aspect of McDermott's record-setting scoring output at Creighton was his ability to dominate games without dominating the ball. College basketball's national player of the year tallied more than 3,000 points in his career via numerous catch-and-shoot 3s or high- and low-post baskets set up by his ability to use screens to free himself without the ball. McDermott's offensive game should translate fine in the NBA even against taller, longer, more athletic defenders. His biggest issue for his new coaches could be figuring out who he should guard. At just a shade under 6-8 in shoes, McDermott gives up an inch or two to most NBA power forwards, but he's not quick enough laterally to defend NBA wings on the perimeter. Marc Spears' grade: A.

12. Philadelphia 76ers (from Orlando): Dario Saric, Croatia Cibona Zagreb, SF-PF, 6-10, 223
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: The Magic made this pick as part of the deal that sent the rights to Elfrid Payton to Orlando. Selling the selection of Saric to fans could be tough for a couple reasons. Most basketball fans in the U.S. have never seen the skilled 6-foot-10 forward play. Also, there's no guarantee of when Saric can help his new team since the new deal he signed with Turkish powerhouse Anadolu Efes prohibits him from leaving for the NBA for at least two seasons. Saric is an intriguing prospect who handles the ball well for his size, shows good court vision and passing, and scores in the half court or transition. A player with his skills might be worth waiting for, but patience is tough to preach in the NBA. Marc Spears' grade: C.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Zach LaVine, UCLA, SG, 6-6, 181, Fr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: This is the ultimate boom-or-bust pick since the obscenely athletic LaVine has a sky-high potential yet has a long way to go to tap into it. On one hand, LaVine scored a total of 11 points in his final five games at UCLA, missed 15 of 19 shots and had more turnovers than field goals. On the other hand, he tested off the charts at the combine and has tremendous size, length and athleticism for an NBA guard. LaVine shoots well from the perimeter and finishes in transition. The 6-foot-6 guard's camp is also convinced he can distribute enough to play point guard, but he seldom had the opportunity to show that in college. LaVine needs to put more effort into his defense and get stronger so he can finish through contact. A season in the D-League to improve those areas and refine his point guard skills would almost certainly benefit him. Marc Spears' grade: A.

14. Phoenix Suns: T.J. Warren, North Carolina State, SG, 6-8, 215, So.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: Since Syracuse, Duke and Virginia were the three strongest teams in the ACC last season, it's easy to forget that ACC player of the year honors didn't go to Tyler Ennis, Jabari Parker or Joe Harris. Instead, N.C. State forward T.J. Warren captured that award, making the transition from complementary scorer to go-to threat look absurdly easy. Warren led the ACC in scoring at 24.3 points per game and shot a league-best 53.2 percent from the field. He also closed the regular season with a pair of 40-plus-point outbursts against Pittsburgh and Boston College, becoming the first ACC player to put up back-to-back 40-point games since the 1956-57 season. Warren isn't a great long-range shooter and he's just an average defender, but the crafty 6-foot-8 forward should remain a formidable scorer at the NBA level because of his mid-range game and ability to score in the paint. Marc Spears' grade: C+.

15. Atlanta Hawks: Adreian Payne, Michigan State, PF, 6-10, 239, Sr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: Unlike most of the power forwards in the draft whose production still needs time to catch up with their potential, Payne is more of a what-you-see-is-what-you'll-get prospect. The 6-foot-10, 23-year-old developed into one of the nation's best big men over his four years at Michigan State, averaging 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds during a breakout senior season. What gives Payne a chance to be a rotation player right away at the NBA level is his ability to be a mismatch on offense and a difficult cover on pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops. He can back down smaller defenders in the post or take bigger, slower defenders to the perimeter where he has developed into a consistent mid-range and 3-point shooter. Marc Spears' grade: A.

16. Denver Nuggets (from Chicago): Jusuf Nurkic, Croatia Cedevita Zagreb, C, 6-11, 280
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: The Bulls made this pick for the Nuggets as part of the deal that sent Doug McDermott to the Chicago. The best center in this year's NBA draft besides Embiid? It could be Nurkic, a 6-foot-11, true back-to-the-basket big man who played this past season in Croatia for Cedevita of the Adriatic League. Nurkic used his massive frame to emerge as an efficient low-post scorer for his club, averaging 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in just 16.6 minutes per game, while shooting 54.5 percent from the field. He still needs to develop a mid-range jumper and become more comfortable passing out of double teams. There are also concerns about Nukic's conditioning and modest athleticism defensively. In an era in which NBA teams value speed and quickness over size and strength, he'd have to get used to guarding big men who are much more nimble. Marc Spears' grade: A.

17. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn): James Young, Kentucky, SG-SF, 6-7, 213, Fr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: Maybe Young will continue to blossom as a prospect, but right now he's fairly one-dimensional. He's a shooter – and not nearly as consistent as some of the other wings in this draft. In his lone season at Kentucky, Young shot a modest 35 percent from behind the arc and required time and space to get his feet set. He rebounded decently and showed an ability to get to the rim going left, but he is a poor passer and doesn't put in sufficient effort on defense to consistently stay in front of his man. The good news with Young is that he has the raw ability to become a starting-caliber NBA shooting guard if he makes strides in some of the areas he's deficient. He'll need to work harder than he did at Kentucky. Marc Spears' grade: B.

18. Phoenix Suns (from Washington): Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, PG, 6-2, 182, Fr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: No point guard prospect displayed more control or composure this past season than Ennis, who excelled as a freshman. He averaged 12.7 points and tallied more than three times as many assists as turnovers for a team that made a run at an undefeated season deep into February before losing for the first time. The question facing Ennis is whether he's quick and athletic enough to thrive at a position that also includes the likes of Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose. Ennis will have to prove he can get past and guard NBA point guards. Marc Spears' grade: C.

19. Denver Nuggets (from Chicago): Gary Harris, Michigan State, SG, 6-4, 205, So.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: The Bulls made this pick for the Nuggets as part of the deal that sent Doug McDermott to the Chicago. Though Harris is a tad undersized to play on the wing in the NBA and not a good enough ball-handler or playmaker to have a future at point guard, the former Michigan State standout is still a solid mid first-round pick because of all the things he does well. He defends either guard spot capably. He consistently gets to the rim. He is excellent in transition. And he shoots from 3-point range better than his 35 percent clip last season would indicate. Nagging injuries plagued Harris throughout his college career, yet he still averaged 16.7 points and four rebounds per game as a sophomore. With his competitiveness, character and ability, Harris is one of the safer picks in the first round. Marc Spears' grade: A.

20. Toronto Raptors: Bruno Caboclo, Brazil, F, 6-9, 200
Eric Freeman's analysis: It's safe to say that no one anticipated the choice. The Raptors selected the youngest player available in the draft (he doesn't turn 19 years old until September). ESPN's international prospect evaluator Fran Fraschilla, tasked with explaining Caboclo's value, did the young man no favors by calling him "the Brazilian Kevin Durant" before noting that he really doesn't know how to play basketball yet. To make matters worse, Fraschilla also said that Bruno is "two years away from being two years away, and then we'll see," which makes him sound more like the Brazilian Anthony Randolph than the reigning NBA MVP. Only time will tell if the Raptors had shocking foresight or made a huge mistake. They'll have a few years to judge Caboclo overseas before deciding if he's worth a roster spot. The rest of us will have to hope we can learn more — or just anything — about him before that time comes. Marc Spears' grade: B.

Oklahoma City
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mitch McGary, Michigan, PF, 6-10, 255, Soph.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: Much of McGary's draft stock is based on one brilliant three-week stretch in the 2013 NCAA tournament. He averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game as the Wolverines advanced to the national title game before falling to Louisville. McGary was a preseason All-American this past season but played in only eight games before undergoing lower back surgery. He conducted only a couple of workouts for NBA teams this month and did not undergo a predraft physical. When healthy, McGary is a formidable screener and rebounder who is effective in pick-and-rolls and uses his body well to defend big men. Marc Spears' grade: C.

22. Memphis Grizzlies: Jordan Adams, UCLA, SG, 6-5, 220, Soph.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: Once considered the afterthought in a recruiting class that included Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker, Adams went on to enjoy as good a college career as any of them. He was one of UCLA's top two scorers as a freshman and a sophomore, initially announcing he intended to return to college for his junior season before changing his mind the day before the deadline. Adams isn't an NBA-level athlete, but he makes up for it with craftiness. He scores off the dribble, via mid-range jumpers and from behind the arc. And he forces turnovers with quick hands and good instincts. Adams has also lost 15 pounds since the end of the college season, which should only help with his lateral quickness. Marc Spears' grade: B.

23. Utah Jazz: Rodney Hood, Duke, SF, 6-8, 215, Jr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: Watch enough Duke basketball this past season, and it was sometimes easy to forget that Jabari Parker, and not Rodney Hood, was the potential top-three pick. The former Mississippi State transfer averaged 16.1 points per game for the Blue Devils, sinking 42 percent of his 3-point attempts and also burying an array of pull-up mid-range jumpers. Hood has good size for an NBA small forward but is he athletic enough to beat NBA defenders off the dribble or keep small forwards from blowing by him on defense? Just as Parker was a culprit for Duke's season-long subpar defense, so too was Hood. Marc Spears' grade: A.

24. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, Connecticut, PG, 6-1, 180, Sr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: This pick, as a result of Miami's trade with Charlotte, got praise from LeBron James via Twitter. Napier doesn't have the size of bigger point guards in this draft or the eye-popping quickness of some of the smaller point guards in the NBA, but what Napier accomplished as a senior at UConn assured his place in the first round of the draft. He averaged 18 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists, spearheading the Huskies' unlikely run from a No. 7 seed to the national championship. It's Napier's shot-making and scoring ability that gives him a chance to become a starting point guard in the NBA despite his modest size and physical tools. He has proven he's not afraid to take the big shot at the big moment and he has sunk more than his share too. Marc Spears' grade: A.

25. Houston Rockets: Clint Capela, Elon Chalon (France), PF, 6-10, 211
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis:This is a classic upside pick. The big man is unpolished offensively and needs to develop a better feel for the game, but he flashed enough promise during a breakout season in France last year to suggest he could make an impact in the NBA in a few years. Long, lean and athletic with eye-popping leaping for a man his size, the 20-year-old Capela finishes extremely well at the rim and could become an excellent shot blocker and pick-and-roll specialist as he gets his timing and footwork down. He doesn't have much of a low-post game at this stage, however, and his jump shot is virtually non-existent, as evidenced by his sub-50 percent free-throw shooting. Marc Spears' grade: C.

26. Charlotte Hornets: P.J. Hairston, North Carolina, SG, 6-6, 220, Soph.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: This pick went to the Hornets via trade with the Heat involving Shabazz Napier and other draft picks. Having seen his college career come to an abrupt end last winter amid an improper benefits investigation, Hairston could have let this past season go to waste. Instead he headed to the D-League and validated his status as a first-round draft pick, avoiding further off-court trouble and averaging 21.8 points per game. Spot-up shooting is Hairston's best attribute, but he has the size and athleticism to get to the rim and to defend wings as well. His stint in the D-League should enable him to make an immediate impact in the NBA. Marc Spears' grade: B.

27. Phoenix Suns: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Partizan Belgrade (Serbia), SG, 6-6, 200
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: The man with the redundant name has intriguing skills. With a 6-foot-11 wingspan, Bogdanovic has excellent size for an NBA guard. His No. 1 asset is his perimeter shooting, though his shot selection can be maddening. He has good instincts defensively and his length allows him to get into the passing lanes and force turnovers. Bogdanovic has shown potential as a slasher and playmaker, suggesting he can handle some ball-handling duties down the road if he can improve his decision making and cut down his turnovers. There's a fair amount to like about his game but there's some doubt as to when he'll come over to the U.S. He could opt to sign with a bigger European team and stay there a few years. Marc Spears' grade: C.

Los Angeles
28. Los Angeles Clippers: C.J. Wilcox, Washington, SG, 6-5, 195, Sr.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: Often overlooked in college playing for a team that missed the NCAA tournament the past three seasons, Wilcox's star has risen in recent weeks as NBA teams have gotten a first-hand look at his outside shooting prowess and his surprising athleticism. Wilcox shot just under 40 percent from 3-point range in his four seasons at Washington and holds many of the program's outside shooting records. The 6-foot-5 wing also tested better than expected at the combine, showing off a 37.5-inch vertical leap and a wingspan that measured nearly 6-10. Wilcox isn't going to wow anyone with his ball-handling or his ability to create his own shot, but he can carve out a niche as a perimeter shooter with the physical tools to become a solid defender. Marc Spears' grade: C.

Oklahoma City
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Josh Huestis, Stanford, SF, 6-7, 230, Sr.
Marc J. Spears' analysis: The Stanford forward's stock rose with strong draft workouts. He has a 7-foot-1 wingspan and gained praise for his defensive play. Averaged 11.2 points last season. Huestis says his game resembles Kawhi Leonard's. Marc Spears' grade: C.

San Antonio
30. San Antonio Spurs: Kyle Anderson, UCLA, SF, 6-9, 230, Soph.
Jeff Eisenberg's analysis: Anderson is one of the most difficult players to assess in the draft because his value depends on whether his coach can find a way to tap into his unique skills. The 6-foot-8 former UCLA standout has the size and frame of a combo forward but the vision, ball-handling and passing of a point guard. Therefore he'll need a system that enables him to use his playmaking ability even if he's not playing point guard. Anderson rebounded well both seasons at UCLA and showed improvement as a perimeter shooter as a sophomore, but despite his length, his lack of lateral quickness can make him a defensive liability on the perimeter. UCLA played him at point guard offensively but had him guard the opposition's least dangerous wing. Marc Spears' grade: A.

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