Andrew Wiggins lived up to hype as top-ranked recruit in 2013-14, and is consensus choice to do so again in star-studded NBA Draft Thursday night. (Photo courtesy of Fox Sports)
If at first you don't succeed, the old adage urges one to try again; and try again, we will.
For the fifth consecutive year, we will give it the old college try when it comes to predicting how tonight's NBA Draft will turn out just a mere 20 minutes away from Daly Dose headquarters inside Brooklyn's Barclays Center. Once the festivities get underway, our annual tradition of the running draft night diary will commence, but until then, here is our prognostication of the first round as Adam Silver steps into the irreplaceable role of his predecessor David Stern:
1) Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins (F - Kansas)
The Cavs have the top spot for the third time in four years, and much like 2013, no one has any idea of what Dan Gilbert will instruct new general manager David Griffin to do with the opening act. While Jabari Parker may be the more pro-ready pick, word out of Cleveland is that the Duke forward did not impress the high brass in his workout, whereas Wiggins, who enters the draft as the most coveted prospect since LeBron James in 2003, is the object of Cavalier executives' affections. This pick will truly be a gametime decision, but ultimately, Gilbert; who is more partial to Wiggins over Parker, will likely get the man he wants.
2) Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker (F - Duke)
Milwaukee, who once drafted Lew Alcindor out of UCLA, will get a very attractive consolation prize no matter who is still available to them, but Parker will almost certainly be the unquestioned choice should Wiggins go to Cleveland. In the Chicago native, who will have the added draw of playing within a reasonable driving distance from his family and friends, the Bucks get the closest player to LeBron James in terms of both a physical and talent standpoint, as his early-season performances established himself as the player with the highest pro potential.
3) Philadelphia 76ers: Noah Vonleh (F - Indiana)
Australian X-factor Dante Exum could realistically be the pick here for the Sixers, but with Michael Carter-Williams already in the fold, Philly will instead opt for the big man in this spot. Several mock drafts still have Joel Embiid with the third selection, but with his recent medical issues, don't be surprised to see the seven-footer slide a little further down in much the same way Nerlens Noel did a year ago. In Vonleh, the Sixers get a 6-10 forward who alters almost every shot within his reach to complement a rebounding ability miles beyond his years.
4) Orlando Magic: Julius Randle (F - Kentucky)
Another potential landing spot for Exum could be the Magic in the fourth position should Orlando decide to keep the selection. Rumor has it that Orlando is considering moving up to the top spot to draft Jabari Parker, so if the Cavaliers (don't forget, trades cannot be announced until after players have already been selected) draft Parker, one would assume that Orlando would merely be drafting for Cleveland here. For all intents and purposes, we feel the Cavs will hold onto their selection; and with the Magic craving a front line upgrade, they pick John Calipari's latest prodigy in Randle, a 6-9 man among boys who will go a long way toward replacing the hole created by Dwight Howard's trade two years ago.
5) Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid (C - Kansas)
Embiid's downfall ends with the Jazz, who take the Jayhawk sensation to team with Trey Burke in Salt Lake City. Joining Derrick Favors up front, Embiid will be able to put his shot blocking prowess to immediate use once he returns from his foot injury, and should certainly make Jazz fans forget about their last Kansas center, that being Greg Ostertag.
6) Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart (G - Oklahoma State)
The Celtics are looking for a scoring point guard to replace Rajon Rondo, and Smart, despite his slight character issue toward the end of the season that landed him national headlines to go with a three-game suspension, will be a coach's dream for Brad Stevens. Equally as adept a passer as he is putting the ball in the basket, Smart will continue Boston's youth movement, and will have Beantown abuzz with playoff contention sooner rather than later.
7) Los Angeles Lakers: Dante Exum (G - Australia)
Exum will almost certainly go higher than this, but if one thing is to be certain on draft night, it is to expect; and subsequently embrace, the unexpected. Exum, who noted international player expert Fran Fraschilla (more on him later tonight) considers a worthy No. 1 pick, is a combo guard who would not only fit right in among the Los Angeles landscape with his talent, but also a burgeoning star who would get to learn from one of the game's all-time greats in Kobe Bryant for the first several years of his career.
8) Sacramento Kings: Elfrid Payton (G - Louisiana-Lafayette)
The Kings have gambled and lost on Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette as long-term answers at the point while Joe and Gavin Maloof are still negotiating a way to move the team out of California's state capital. Hoping the third time is the charm for Sacramento, they reach out for the fast-rising Payton, who averaged six rebounds and six assists per game to go with 19 points per contest for the Ragin' Cajuns, and will now serve as the prime facilitator for DeMarcus Cousins in the paint.
9) Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott (F - Creighton)
The former Bobcats have already made basketball traditionalists proud by reverting to the old Hornets nickname, and Michael Jordan's franchise will do so again by reverting to a throwback player in McDermott, who has already worked out for Charlotte to rave reviews. A 6-8 forward who can do a little bit of everything, "Dougie McBuckets" is reminiscent of Chris Mullin from an efficiency perspective, with a fluid, effortless game that prompted our own Ray Floriani to describe him as "economy in motion."
10) Philadelphia 76ers: Aaron Gordon (F - Arizona)
Despite having already drafted Noah Vonleh earlier in the night, the Sixers upgrade their frontcourt even more with the selection of Gordon, arguably the most versatile forward in this year's draft class. Perhaps the best rebounder among the group, Gordon can play the three, four or even five, with a blue-collar work ethic that fans in the City of Brotherly Love will relate to rather quickly.
11) Denver Nuggets: Jusuf Nurkic (C - Bosnia)
Not much is known around these parts about Nurkic, a 20-year-old who stands 6-11 and checks in at 280 pounds, but his size will certainly make him a force in the post for the Nuggets, who will use the European import to create a two-headed interior monster alongside Kenneth Faried.
12) Orlando Magic: Nik Stauskas (G - Michigan)
Jameer Nelson is getting older, and while Victor Oladipo provided a much greater scoring punch in his rookie season than we may have envisioned, Stauskas is simply too talented for the Magic to pass on in this spot. What makes the Canadian sharpshooter an even more precious commodity is his ball handling ability, turning him into a combo guard that will sneak up on several defenses his first time around.
13) Minnesota Timberwolves: T.J. Warren (F - NC State)
Usually, Minnesota always opts to shake things up on draft night, and this year will be no different as Flip Saunders begins his second stint at the helm in the land of 10,000 lakes. With both Gary Harris and UCLA swingman Zach LaVine still available when the Wolves make this pick, the selection instead will be Warren, who came from a reserve role to step up and lead the ACC in scoring before guiding the Wolfpack to the NCAA Tournament. The uncertain future of Kevin Love will also be a factor in Minnesota deciding to augment their front line at the expense of a guard, and Warren should benefit from Ricky Rubio's passing skills right away.
14) Phoenix Suns: Gary Harris (G - Michigan State)
The Suns get one of the best clutch players in the draft in Harris, who kept the Spartans fighting much longer than most would have predicted last season. Two years in East Lansing may be atypical of a Tom Izzo recruit, but Harris could have come out last year and been a lottery pick as well. He brings a refuse-to-lose mantra and willingness to make an impact in big moments to the Valley of the Sun, and in a coincidental twist of fate, possesses the same instincts (and former jersey number too) of Phoenix head coach Jeff Hornacek.
15) Atlanta Hawks: Dario Saric (F - Croatia)
Atlanta gets a double-double threat to wreak havoc on the boards alongside Al Horford when they select Saric, who averaged 17 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game in his native Croatia last season. At just 20 years old, the 6-10 mountain of a man only has room to grow, and could be a household name in the NBA within just a couple of years.
16) Chicago Bulls: Rodney Hood (F - Duke)
Speculation seems to favor the Bulls as a suitor for Carmelo Anthony, but before the free agent drama ensues, Tom Thibodeau will have an insurance policy in Hood, who brings to the Windy City what fellow former Blue Devils Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer did as well, that being an aggressive mindset with the ball in his hands while at the same time expanding his game on the defensive side of the ball, something that will make him valuable before he even makes his debut.
17) Boston Celtics: Adreian Payne (F - Michigan State)
Boston already has their guard of the future in Marcus Smart, and for his second new piece, Brad Stevens inherits a pro-ready talent in Payne to join Kelly Olynyk on the youthful Celtic front line. Equal parts scorer and rebounder, Payne's underrated outside game sets him apart from some other big men, something that will prove vital as the Celtics make their ascent back to postseason contention.
18) Phoenix Suns: Jerami Grant (F - Syracuse)
If Adreian Payne slides past the Celtics at No. 17, he will be the pick here for the Suns. If not, Phoenix can go in a number of different ways, and will explore each before ultimately reaching just a bit to take Grant, the burgeoning big man from Syracuse who anchored Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone defense in college, and will now anchor the post for Phoenix. Considered a prospect who may have jumped for the NBA too soon, Grant will have mounds of opportunities to prove the skeptics wrong, and will carve out his own niche among the world-class forwards of the Western Conference.
19) Chicago Bulls: Shabazz Napier (G - Connecticut)
Derrick Rose will remain a question mark until he is able to prove that he is 100 percent after his recent injury-riddled history, and when an insurance policy that just so happens to have two national championships among its underwriting is readily available, how can you turn that down? That will be Chicago's rationale for selecting Napier, a vintage Jim Calhoun recruit with a killer instinct and hard-nosed mentality on both sides of the ball who will be the warrior that Bulls fans will embrace for his take-no-prisoners style.
20) Toronto Raptors: Tyler Ennis (G - Syracuse)
Canada's NBA team brings a homegrown talent back home, as Ennis comes north of the border once again after a stellar one-and-done turn as the hub of Jim Boeheim's wheel with the Orange, where his late game heroics kept Syracuse relevant through most of the regular season. Ennis' pure point guard tactics will allow Dwane Casey to play Greivis Vasquez off the ball, something that will pay immediate dividends for the Raptors.
21) Oklahoma City Thunder: Zach LaVine (G - UCLA)
LaVine has arguably the widest range of any prospect tonight, with a projection of anywhere from the end of the lottery to the end of the first round. His freakish athleticism will be a huge asset to fellow ex-Bruin Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, giving the Thunder an X-factor between Westbrook and Kevin Durant in their quest to dethrone the San Antonio Spurs once and for all.
22) Memphis Grizzlies: Kyle Anderson (G - UCLA)
With Anderson still on the board here, the Grizz pick up the first of what will be many steals on this night, adding the 6-9 point guard who can play anywhere on the floor. Anderson will likely project as a shooting guard or small forward at the professional level, but his versatility wins out for Memphis, who gets a building block toward their already bright future.
23) Utah Jazz: Jordan Adams (G - UCLA)
The run on Westwood student-athletes continues on with Adams, who joins Joel Embiid in a deceptively strong haul for the Jazz and new head coach Quin Snyder. In Adams, Utah gets one of the more underrated and explosive players in the draft crop, a proven scorer who made a name for himself in the Pac-12 as a second; sometimes third, option for Steve Alford in his sophomore season.
24) Charlotte Hornets: Cleanthony Early (F - Wichita State)
The one-time junior college standout from upstate New York before Gregg Marshall brought out the best in him for the last two years comes to the NBA off a Final Four and near-perfect season with the Shockers, and joins Doug McDermott as the newest pieces for the rebooted Hornets, who can now start finalizing their build to established playoff contender. For those who have not seen Early, think Kawhi Leonard, only more physically imposing. Just look at how that turned out for the Spurs earlier this month.
25) Houston Rockets: James Young (G - Kentucky)
Much like Chicago, the Rockets have been discussed as a destination for Carmelo Anthony, and even LeBron James should he decide to take his talents away from South Beach. Nonetheless, Young; a Morris Peterson clone who can play both shooting guard and small forward, is gift-wrapped for Houston in this spot, and should blend in seamlessly with Chandler Parsons and Dwight Howard up front, along with James Harden in the backcourt.
26) Miami Heat: Jordan Clarkson (G - Missouri)
Mario Chalmers is reportedly on the way out after the Heat came up short in their quest to win a third straight NBA championship, and Clarkson gets a perfect situation in which to begin his career. A 6-4 combo guard who can open up passing lanes to feed Miami's "Big Three" should they re-sign, Clarkson is a floor general who will make his presence known without having to sacrifice scoring opportunities for his teammates.
27) Phoenix Suns: Joe Harris (F - Virginia)
Harris, a constant among the ACC elite even without North Carolina or Duke next to his name, is a potential dynamite keg waiting to explode on NBA defenses, and someone who Phoenix can use right away to join Gary Harris and Jerami Grant to give point guard Goran Dragic more options.
28) Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch McGary (C - Michigan)
With the prospect of sitting out a year due to a substance abuse ban by the NCAA, McGary couldn't have picked a better time to enter the draft after deciding against it in 2013, and lands with the Clippers, who may be looking to move DeAndre Jordan to make a run at one of the marquee free agents on the open market.
29) Oklahoma City Thunder: Jarnell Stokes (F - Tennessee)
After having picked up a steal in Zach LaVine earlier in the night, the Thunder beef up their frontcourt with Stokes, a power forward that can spell Serge Ibaka while providing a solid complement to Kevin Durant on both sides of the ball.
30) San Antonio Spurs: Bogdan Bogdanovic (G - Serbia)
Another stash pick for the newly crowned NBA champions here, as they can hold Bogdanovic overseas until he is ready to come to Texas and help Gregg Popovich remain atop the Western Conference.