2014 NBA Draft Class: Biggest Steals
The so-called ‘draft of the century’ is officially over and it was surely filled with many surprises.
No one in the world thought the Raptors would use their 20th pick on Bruno Caboclo – a Brazilian prospect that few scouts even projected going in the second round.
Or that the Celtics would opt to draft Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, which left many fans wondering if Rajon Rondo’s days in a green uniform are numbered.
However what was most shocking about this draft had to be the amount of high-ranking prospects that fell past their projected destinations, leaving numerous teams with absolute steals in a draft that was already loaded from top to bottom.
Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid, No. 3
Joel Embiid slipping to No. 3 wasn’t exactly stunning to draft experts, nevertheless the Sixers still nabbed a top-tier center that has the potential to be the best player from this draft class a few years down the line.
With Embiid joining Nerlens Noel in the frontcourt, Philadelphia has the chance to form one of the most dynamic and defensive minded tandems in the entire league, given that the two big men can successfully coexist.
Worst case scenario, the Sixers could just as easily unload Noel this year or the next, as the former Kentucky star will have plenty of opportunities to showcase his abilities at the center position before Embiid even returns from injury.
Charlotte Hornets: Noah Vonleh, No. 9
Even though drafting Vonleh creates an absolute logjam in their frontcourt, Charlotte simply couldn’t pass up on taking the big man due to his sky high potential and how well he fits their needs.
Equipped with a lethal jumper and elite physical tools, Vonleh fits perfectly next to center Al Jefferson, as he’ll provide the Hornets with much needed rim protection and floor spacing on offense.
Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, No. 19
Harris sliding to No. 19 in the draft was pretty jaw dropping, as teams like Chicago and Atlanta (that needed more productive offense on the perimeter) appeared like perfect destinations for a sharpshooter of his caliber.
What’s ironic is how the Nuggets weren’t even expecting to nab Harris, as they just finished acquiring Arron Afflalo from the Magic to fill their need at the two.
It may take some time to get Harris a fluid amount of minutes in their backcourt, but over time he should ease into a starting role and supply Denver with the adept three point shooting they were looking for all along.
Utah Jazz: Rodney Hood, No. 23
With aging veteran Richard Jefferson and draft bust Marvin Williams manning the lions share of minutes at the wing, the Jazz got a huge upgrade in Rodney Hood who has the potential to start from day one.
The Duke product will provide the Jazz with a solid complimentary option on offense, and more importantly, allow them to let go of guard/forward Gordon Hayward, who’s due for a huge payday in free agency.
San Antonio Spurs: Kyle Anderson, No. 30
The Spurs got an absolute gem in Kyle Anderson, who should blossom into an exceptional player with the team, since he’ll now have the opportunity to learn from his NBA comparison – Boris Diaw.
He may not get the opportunity to play ample minutes in his first season with the team, but expect Anderson to become a huge contributor for San Antonio down the line, once he gets the seal of approval from coach Gregg Popovich.
New York Knicks: Cleanthony Early, No. 34
Cleanthony Early’s slide on draft day was chiefly due to his age, as many teams passed on the Wichita State product believing he has little to no upside.
However even if that projection holds true, Early still has the skillset to be an immediate contributor for the Knicks from the get-go, as he’s a typical 3 and D type player, possessing superior athleticism and a decent three point shot.
It still remains to be seen if Carmelo Anthony will return to the Knicks this offseason, but if he opts to part ways, the team has to feel confident knowing they have a great replacement in Early.
Follow Evan Caulfield on Twitter @fieldhoops