Somewhere in the near future, after unforeseen circumstances, Adam Silver, in a fit of haste, pushes a large red button, painted with the words “DO NOT PRESS” in the NBA Offices in Newark, New Jersey.
Everything about the league is reset sans front offices and owners. Players are thrown into a pool to be re-drafted and team order is evenly randomly selected.
Who goes first? How do the stars pan out without these super teams? Where does budding superstar Kawhi Leonard end up? What happens to aging veterans Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker?
1. Denver Nuggets – LeBron James
I don’t think it’s any question that LeBron James is the number one pick, even though he is approaching 30 years of age. The fact of the matter is, James is still the most dominant player in the NBA, and still can be for the next 5-6 years. On top of that, recent history has shown James’ ability to recruit all kinds of talent to go play with him, no matter where the city.
2. Atlanta Hawks – Kevin Durant
The silky-smooth scorer goes second overall. Durant would be a cornerstone on any team, with the ability to drop 50 points at the drop of a hat. It would be interesting to see how dominant he could be without Russell Westbrook stealing shots.
3. Memphis Grizzlies – Anthony Davis
Memphis keeps their grit n’ grind attitude, minus the brute strength. Davis, likely a future Defensive Player of the Year, will man the middle for the Grizzlies for 10+ years. Davis has the biggest upside of anybody in the NBA at this moment.
4. Toronto Raptors – Stephen Curry
A tough call between Curry and Kevin Love, because both play positions of importance. Because of Curry’s ability to run the show, and flat-out deadly shooting, Curry gets a trip to the Great White North.
5. Brooklyn Nets – Kevin Love
Mr. Do-It-All is the fourth NBA player ever to average over 26 points and 12 rebounds per game in a single season. He is a game changer that never had game changing talent with him in Minnesota. Mikhail Prokhorov will bust out his infinite pockets, like he has been, to bring that talent to Brooklyn.
6. Phoenix Suns – Blake Griffin
The high-flier owns out of this world athleticism. The Phoenix Suns haven’t had a player like that since Amare Stoudemire. Phoenix could use some fun, and with the right talent, could use Griffin to return to the Nash-led Suns days.
7. Golden State Warriors – LaMarcus Aldridge
We’ve kind of reached a point where there is break in the talent. Some of the next few guys are fantastic players that haven’t really accomplished anything team-wise. Aldridge is one of those guys, but he has done nothing but improve throughout his NBA career.
8. New York Knicks – Carmelo Anthony
Melo would be the first to return to the team that owned his rights before. The New York kid is widely known and seems to fit in with the Knicks current attitude, which unfortunately, isn’t working out very well for them.
9. Miami Heat – Chris Paul
Still the most talented pure point guard in the NBA, Paul has struggled getting to the Western Conference Finals in his NBA career. Maybe he’ll have more luck getting to the Eastern Conference Finals.
10. Utah Jazz – Russell Westbrook
With a whole team under his control, Westbrook could be an out of this world player. Let him take the reigns and watch him work.
11. New Orleans Pelicans – James Harden
The Pelicans have been looking for a guy to run the show since Paul left. They’ve seen Jrue Holiday, Austin Rivers, Tyreke Evans, Greivis Vasquez, and Jarrett Jack come through, and none have performed to their peak ability. Harden is a guy, although not a point guard, can run a team with his play on the floor. If he ever played a lick of defense, Harden would have been good enough to go in the top six picks.
12. Chicago Bulls – John Wall
The Bulls could take their chances and hope Rose, a superior talent, can stay healthy. Joakim Noah could be an option as well since Tom Thibodeau loves his defense. Essentially, Wall is a little bit of both worlds in the pick. Wall is a solid point guard to lead the team, and plays above average defense. He also stays healthy. It seems like the safest pick.
13. Houston Rockets – Damian Lillard
Sorry, Rockets fans. It had to be done.
14. Orlando Magic – Serge Ibaka
Dwight Howard would never be welcomed back to Orlando. The best shot blocker not named Howard? Serge Ibaka. In addition, Ibaka has steadily improved his 3-point shooting every season and has become much more of an offensive threat than being right under the basket like Howard and Noah.
15. Dallas Mavericks – Kawhi Leonard
Is there any doubt that Mark Cuban would stick it to the entire city of San Antonio and take the reigning Finals MVP? Leonard has nearly as much upside as Anthony Davis, and will be a franchise cornerstone when all is said and done. As much of a pain it would be to see Leonard in Mavericks blue, a team that he is in control of would do wonders for the kid. While he’s not necessarily the 15th best player in the NBA, his upside could make him a top 10 player overall in the future.
16. Boston Celtics – Dwight Howard
When is the last time that Boston had a great rim protector? Kevin Garnett was the closest thing to one for the past ten years. Howard is that guy, and if he ever improves his attitude, he could return to the top 5-10 player he was in Orlando.
17. Milwaukee Bucks – Kyrie Irving
Milwaukee is desperate for a star. The last time the Bucks had an All-Star was 2004. Two thousand and four! Them and the Sacramento Kings own the longest streaks. What better All-Star to claim than the reigning All-Star MVP. Irving has proven his ability to score and run a team.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder – Derrick Rose
At this point, there’s a big predicament. Do you go with proven talent in Noah, Al Jefferson, or Marc Gasol, or upside potential in Andre Drummond, Lance Stephenson, Klay Thompson, or Michael Carter-Williams? Or go for the biggest star of all, Derrick Rose. If he can stay healthy, he has shown in USA Training Camp that the old Derrick Rose is back.
19. Los Angeles Lakers – Andre Drummond
Drummond is going to be a gigantic force in this league. In his second season, the big man averaged over 13 points and 13 rebounds. He has minimal range and free throw shooting, but can be improved. I’m thinking Shaq 2.0. Well, Shaq was two people in himself. Drummond can be Shaq 2.5.
20. San Antonio Spurs – Joakim Noah
Is there any doubt that Joakim Noah would be absolutely fantastic in Gregg Popovich’s system? Noah is a very skilled big man in all facets of the game. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year is also a high-energy player to provide a spark and isn’t afraid to speak his mind, something the Spurs don’t see very often.
21. Indiana Pacers – Al Jefferson
Jefferson took the Bobcats, err Hornets, to the playoffs nearly by himself. If it wasn’t for a foot injury, the Cats may have even taken a game from the Heat. While Jefferson isn’t as good of a defender as Roy Hibbert, his offensive game is miles better, something the Pacers have lacked for years. It would be a good, nice change of pace.
22. Los Angeles Clippers – Marc Gasol
You can’t teach height. That’s why the last four picks have all been centers and none of the younger guards. Gasol is a great player on both ends of the floor.
23. Charlotte Hornets – Andrew Wiggins
At this point, it makes sense to grab the number one overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft based on pure potential. He hasn’t played a second in the NBA, but has been highly, highly touted as an incredibly athletic specimen.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers – Paul George
It’s time to take the risk. Although he’s out for the season, it’s late enough in the draft to where the Cavaliers will pick soon (snake-style) and grab another quality player. If not for the brutal leg injury, George is a top ten (probably top five pick).
25. Portland Trail Blazers – Michael Carter- Williams
MCW is the reigning Rookie of the Year. He’s not the best shooter, but with his height, he is a great rebounder and good passer for his position. Having a new situation, without a pathetic Sixers roster, would improve his numbers and win totals even more.
26. Washington Wizards – Bradley Beal
Beal is going to be a star in this league. One of the best young shooters in the league, Beal returns to the team that originally drafted him.
27. Sacramento Kings – Klay Thompson
I absolutely wanted to throw DeMarcus Cousins here, because that just seems like the biggest Kings-type move that could happen. Here’s to hoping they would be smart and take one of the top shooters in the league.
28. Detroit Pistons – Chris Bosh
Bosh can still get it done. He has improved his shooting and has learned how to win. Winning by himself would be a challenge, but he could with the right pieces.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves – Lance Stephenson
Mr. Head Case himself does everything well. Stephenson led the league in triple doubles, plays defense well, and does everything, including blowing in ears and smacking guys in the head, to try and win games.
30. Philadelphia 76ers – Brook Lopez
Lopez is a great post scorer. The problem is, he really has troubles staying healthy. If he does, this a bargain selection.
As the first round wraps up, there is plenty of talent still left on the board. All the aging veterans (Dirk, Kobe, Duncan, Manu, Parker, Deron) are still on the board, because teams long for young talent to build their team around, and that doesn’t do any good when some of those guys may only play one more season. It’s a good bet that the veterans will be coupled with the younger talent that can learn from them and help win in their twilight years. Tony Parker would easily be one of the next few picks. At age 32, but coming off of an All-Star season, Parker still brings a lot to the table, but has started to show flashes of decline. The peculiar case with Manu, and especially Duncan, is the length they will actually continue to play. It’s not unrealistic to imagine Duncan only playing one more season. That being the case, he would nearly be a rental option. He still contributes at a high clip, so the team drafting him would not be a team with their first couple picks being upside players, but legitimate championship contender. Manu would be a similar case, although he may play a tad bit longer than the Big Fundamental.
For entertainment pleasures, here is how the second round could turn out:
31. 76ers – Ty Lawson
32. Wolves – Tony Parker
33. Pistons – Kyle Lowry
34. Kings – DeMarcus Cousins
35. Wizards – Goran Dragic
36. Blazers – Nikola Vucevic
37. Cavs – Jeff Teague
38. Hornets – Kobe Bryant
39. Clippers – Dirk Nowitzki
40. Pacers – DeMar DeRozan
41. Spurs – Greg Monroe
42. Lakers – Rajon Rondo
43. Thunder – Al Horford
44. Bucks – Nicolas Batum
45. Celtics – Ricky Rubio
46. Mavs – Roy Hibbert
47. Magic – Dwyane Wade
48. Rockets – DeAndre Jordan
49. Bulls – Chandler Parsons
50. Pelicans – Gordon Hayward
51. Jazz – Paul Millsap
52. Heat – David Lee
53. Knicks – Eric Bledsoe
54. Warriors – Andre Igoudala
55. Suns – Mike Conley
56. Nets – Isaiah Thomas
57. Raptors – Zach Randolph
58. Grizzlies – Tim Duncan
59. Hawks – Thaddeus Young
60. Nuggets – Derrick Favors
It’s funny to see that the reigning NBA Champions only have one pick in the first round, and barely sneak in three in the first two rounds, while other, less superior teams have achieved that feat.
I guess that just reinforces the success of the Spurs’ way.