With the 2013 draft behind us and free agency slowing down, it is time take a very early look ahead to the 2014 draft, a draft so good that it is causing quite a few teams to "unintentionally" tank next season.
The 2014 draft will feature at least 4 players that would have gone #1 overall this year in Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, and Jabari Parker. Players like Marcus Smart, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Mitch McGary, and Willie Cauley-Stein also have the potential to develop into stars and solid role players in the NBA.
Without further ado, here are the frontrunners to land the prized #1 pick:
It would really surprise me if the Sixers didn't finish with one of the 3 worst records in the NBA.
2. Phoenix Suns.
The Suns may have made the most underrated move of the off-season when they traded for Eric Bledsoe, a super-athletic point guard that has unlimited potential. But while the Suns do have some young talent in Bledsoe and Alex Len, they are a long way from contention.
The Suns should be a lock to get a top 5 pick next season.
3. Milwaukee Bucks.
It seems like every time the Bucks make a move people are saying "What the heck are they doing?". Collecting 2nd round pick and signing veterans like Zaza Pachulia, Carlos Delfino, and O.J. Mayo are all moves that suggest that the only goal is to get the 8th seed and get swept by the Heat. Owner Herb Kohl seems to think that if his team wins 38 games now he will somehow get a new arena.
While there likely is no logical explanation for what the Bucks are doing, I will try to give one: I believe that the Bucks are undergoing an "accidental" tank.
In order for this "accidental" tank to happen, the Bucks will have to let disgruntled point guard Brandon Jennings go. The possibility of the Bucks paying him $10+ million is keeping every Bucks fan up at night.
4. Orlando Magic.
A year ago the Magic went into total rebuild mode when they traded Dwight Howard for a bunch of young players. While the rebuilding is far from over, the Magic do have a lot of talent on their roster.
Forward Tobias Harris, whom the Magic acquired in trade with the Bucks, showed potential super-star talent when he averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 27 games with Orlando last year. Nikola Vucevic, a double-double machine who the Magic acquired in the Dwight Howard trade, also looks like he will be a star for many year to come.
Harris and Vucevic are not the only young talent on this Magic roster as they also have Moe Harkless, who has drawn comparisons to Andre Iguodala, Andrew Nicholson, and 2013 2nd overall pick Victor Oladipo.
If Tobias Harris can perform like he did last year with Orlando and Jameer Nelson can stay healthy for most of the season, this Magic team might be able to win 30+ games next season.
While Michael Jordan is without a doubt the greatest player of all time, he might be the worst executive of all time. Since Jordan became part owner in 2006 the Bobcats have been either mediocre or really, really bad. While the Charlotte has had some bad luck in the draft lottery, Jordan has made some very questionable picks in recent years.
While the Bobcats are just a year removed from the worst winning percentage in NBA history, it seems like Jordan has chosen this year as the one where his team wins 30 or more games.
Picking NBA-ready Cody Zeller over higher upside centers Nerlens Noel and Alex Len, to go along with the signing of big Al Jefferson, likely ensures that the Bobcats will miss out on the #1 pick once again.
6. Boston Celtics.
The Celtics lineup will probably look more different then any other lineup in the NBA with the departure of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry. Boston also traded head coach Doc Rivers to the Clippers and replaced him with 36-year old Brad Stevens.
The Celtics are undergoing a major rebuild, but as long as Rajon Rondo is in the lineup they will not be bad enough to get a top 3 pick.
7. Utah Jazz.
Much like the Celtics, the Jazz lineup will also look very different next season. Both of their leading scorers, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, are gone.
8. Sacramento Kings.
The Kings might have lost Tyreke Evans, but they upgraded at the guard position with Greivis Vasquez and Ben McLemore. Sacramento also upgraded defensively when they traded with the Bucks for SF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
It seems like the Kings want to win this year especially after a long battle to keep them in Sacramento, and with the talent they have it is unlikely that they get a top 3 pick.
9. Toronto Raptors.
After trading for Rudy Gay by the trade deadline last year, Toronto has a lineup that will likely keep them competitive enough to perhaps get the 8th seed in the east. Even though Andrew Wiggins would like to play for his home town Raptors, it will likely take a couple injuries for that to happen.
10. Washington Wizards.
Talent-wise the Wizards seem like they are ready to compete for a playoff spot in the east. They have a super-athletic backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal to go along with a veteran frontcourt in Nene, Okafor, and Trevor Ariza.
If 3rd overall pick Otto Porter can contribute even a little and the backcourt stays healthy, this team might very well be headed for the playoffs this season.