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2014 NBA Draft Re-grade: Eastern Conference

by Josh Mullenix | @TheJMULL_

The 2014 NBA Draft features very few bright spots. Andrew Wiggins was picked first followed by Jabari Parker to the Bucks. It’s safe to say neither player would be drafted in that spot again. On the other hand, the 76ers made the most impactful selection of the decade drafting Joel Embiid No. 3 overall and Denver made the best second round selection drafting Nikola Jokic with the 41st(!) pick. 

The remainder of the draft is highlighted by high-level role players like Zach Lavine, T.J. Warren and Gary Harris and there are no other all-stars apart from the aforementioned big men. 

As the 110 Sports NBA Draft Re-grade rolls on, it’s time to re-grade the front office decision-making on draft night in 2014. 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Picks (Pick No.): Andrew Wiggins (No. 1), Joe Harris (No. 33)

The Cavaliers won the lottery with the ninth best odds to get the first pick in the 2014 draft. Unfortunately, it happened in a year where Wiggins was clearly going to be the No. 1 overall pick. To be fair, Wiggins is far and away the points leader in this draft, but he’s 15th in win shares and turned into a good stats on a bad team guy in Minnesota. What Wiggins can be as a peripheral piece in Golden State is the next question.

For what it’s worth, the Cavs traded Wiggins before he played a game in a Cleveland uniform in a deal that brought Kevin Love to the Cavs. Cleveland probably doesn’t win a title without Love on the roster. The bigger mistake was letting Harris go in January of 2016 for essentially nothing. He technically won a ring with the team in 2016 but only played in five games that season. Harris has become a guy that everyone wants on their team. He’s a career 42% 3-point shooter and will be a key piece for a good Nets team next season. 

Grade: A | Despite what Wiggins has turned into, he would probably be a top five pick again and still has a chance to be good — and impactful — in Golden State. What makes this grade an A is the value Harris has as a second round pick. 

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Milwaukee Bucks

Picks: Jabari Parker (No. 2), Damien Inglis (No. 31), Johnny O’Bryant (No. 36), Lamar Patterson (No. 48)

Milwaukee made a lot of picks in 2014. In 2020, none of them have anything to do with the Bucks’ status as the team with the best record in the NBA. Parker was not the right move at No. 2. He has been riddled with injuries for most of his career, coming in 24th in this draft class in games played. The Duke product has played more than 65 games just once and his skillset doesn’t exactly suit the current meta of the NBA game. His stats have dropped every year since he averaged 20 points in 51 games in 2016-17. 

The other three draft picks have played a combined total of seven seasons with O’Bryant being the only player to play in more than 40 games in the NBA. Just four years after drafting him, Milwaukee let its No. 2 overall pick go in free agency. You never want that to be the case. 

Grade: C+ | Parker had some respectable seasons in Milwaukee but never really put a full season together and certainly didn’t live up to the expectations of a No. 2 selection. 

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Philadelphia 76ers

Picks: Joel Embiid (No. 3), Elfrid Payton (No. 10), KJ McDaniels (No. 32), Jerami Grant (No. 39), Russ Smith (No. 47), Vasilije Micic (No. 52), Nemanja Dangubic (No. 54)

There are less than a handful of picks this decade that have defined a franchise the way Embiid has defined the Sixers. It took a little while for Embiid to get on the floor, but he is still easily the best player taken in this draft. In four seasons, Embiid is averaging 24.1 points, 11.5 rebounds, three assists and almost two blocks. And that’s with him being out of shape every minute he’s been in the NBA. 

But just in case that didn’t work out, the Sixers went out and made six more selections in 2014. Orlando traded up from No. 12 to No. 10 on draft night to pick Elfrid Payton and the Sixers ended up with Dario Saric. The only other impactful player drafted was Grant, who would be a lottery pick if this draft class was re-selected. 

The story of this draft is simple for the Sixers. They trusted the Process, and the Process has returned the favor in a big way. 

Grade: A+ | Embiid is worthy of an A+. But getting Saric and drafting Grant that late in the draft makes this draft class a lock to receive the highest mark possible.

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Orlando Magic

Picks: Aaron Gordon (No. 4), Dario Saric (No. 12)

As previously mentioned, Orlando traded up to draft Payton with the No. 10 pick. Gordon, by most accounts, is right around the fourth most valuable player in the draft class. He’s sixth in total points, fourth in rebounds, ninth in assists and sixth in win shares. Elfrid Payton is far and away the assists leader in this draft class and is a career 11 points, 6.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds player.

Will either of these guys be anywhere near the best player on a good basketball team? No, and Orlando is quickly approaching a point where it needs to decide if it wants to keep Gordon or trade him and start a new core. But when compared to the rest of this draft class, the two players Orlando left draft night with either meet or exceed their selection position in terms of production.

Grade: A | Ultimately not the most exciting picks, but Orlando made good selections on draft night in 2014. 

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Boston Celtics

Picks: Marcus Smart (No. 6), James Young (No. 17)

Grading Smart by his numbers would be unfair to the tone he sets on the defensive end and the player he has become in Boston. Smart has become one of the tougher backcourt defenders in the NBA and his scoring has improved each year in Boston. In 2019-20, Smart is top 20 in the NBA in defensive win shares and is one of the major reasons Boston has been a top-rated defense in the NBA.

As impactful as Smart has been, James Young was the opposite. Young played in 95 games over four seasons in the NBA, never averaging more than 10.7 minutes per game. He is currently a member of Maccabi Haifa in Israel. 

Grade: B+ | Smart by himself is an A-, but Young is one of the few players drafted in the top 20 to not play every season since this draft. His impact was even less than his NBA career suggests. 

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Charlotte Hornets

Picks: Noah Vonleh (No. 9), Shabazz Napier (No. 24), Dwight Powell (No. 45)

All three players drafted by Charlotte were gone by June 24, 2015. Napier and Powell were traded the day after the 2014 draft, Napier to the Heat, Powell to the Cavaliers. Vonleh was probably the Hornets’ worst selection with their highest draft pick, but they used him in a trade to acquire Nicholas Batum, who was much better in Charlotte than Vonleh ever would have been.

Napier has had a respectable career and is now one of the more intriguing players who will actually suit up for Washington in the NBA bubble. The best value Charlotte got was drafting Powell at No 45. The big man out of Stanford has turned himself into a key piece of a young, talented Mavericks team. However, Powell suffered a torn achilles tendon in January of 2020, which is an injury that few big men fully recover from. 

Grade: B+ | The sum of these three players doesn’t quite crack into the A range and the value of Powell at No. 45 doesn’t quite cancel out the miss with Vonleh at No. 9. However, Charlotte drafted three guys that have played every season since entering the league. They’re the only team in this draft with multiple picks who can say that. 

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Atlanta Hawks

Picks: Adreian Payne (No. 15), Edy Tavares (No. 43)

Payne’s career at Michigan State was impressive but the NBA game quickly left his skillset in the dust. In just four NBA seasons, Payne averaged 13.1 minutes per game scoring four points and pulling down 2.9 boards. Tavares played in just 13 games over two seasons. Quite simply, the trajectory of the Hawks franchise since 2014 would be the exact same if they hadn’t shown up for the draft in 2014.

Grade: C- | Four seasons out of the No. 15 pick is not good, and the No. 43 pick didn’t help their case. 

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Chicago Bulls

Picks: Jusuf Nurkic (No. 16), Garry Harris (No. 19), Cameron Bairstow (No. 49)

On draft night, Chicago traded the 16th and 19th picks to Denver to move up to No. 11, where the Bulls took Creighton’s Doug McDermott. It turned out to be the wrong choice. McDermott has been solid, but has started just 14 games in the NBA to Nurkic’s 302 starts and Harris’ 229. Both players average more points per game for their career and Nurkic averaged a double-double in 2018-19. In 2014, the Bulls needed shooting and scoring as the lowest scoring team in the NBA during the 2013-14 season. In theory, McDermott met those needs but never turned into a prolific scorer in the NBA.

Grade: B | If they had held on to Nurkic and Harris, it would’ve been an A. But they didn’t. Instead, they made a trade that was clearly the wrong choice.

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Miami Heat

Picks: P.J. Hairston (No. 26), Semaj Christon (No. 55)

The Heat were enjoying the James-Wade-Bosh era at this point in the decade, but they certainly didn’t add to their team on draft night in 2014. Hariston and Christon combined to play three seasons and 175 games. However, the Heat did trade those two players to Charlotte for Napier, who’s easily had the best career out of the three players, so there’s that.

Grade: C  | Just a boring draft for a team who didn’t care about the draft. 

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New York Knicks

Picks: Cleanthony Early (No. 34), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (No. 51)

The Knicks lost their picks in the trade that brought Carmelo Anthony to Madison Square Garden and then got two picks back the night before the draft in a deal that sent Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas. They drafted two players that are, or largely were, unimpactful during the time in the league. Early played just two seasons in the NBA and is currently a member of Al Ahli Jeddah in the Saudi Premier League.

Antetokounmpo hasn’t exactly turned into the star that his brother did. He played in two games for the Knicks in 2015-16 and didn’t appear in the NBA again until 2019-20 when he played in 18 games for the Bucks. In case you had forgotten how young Giannis is, Thanasis is three years older than Giannis at the age of 28.

Grade: D+ | The draft positions aren’t ideal. But only 76 games from two guys your staff deemed worthy of NBA draft picks is not good. 

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Toronto Raptors

Picks: Bruno Caboclo (No. 20), DeAndre Daniels (No. 37), Xavier Thames (No. 59)

Mr. Two years away from being two years away, a.k.a Bruno Caboclo. It’s quite impressive that Caboclo has been as useless as he has and still manages to find his way onto NBA rosters. He’s never played more than 34 games in a season and has played more than 13 in a season only twice. He certainly wouldn’t be the 20th pick again. To add salt to the wound, seven players drafted in 2014 never saw the floor of an NBA arena, Toronto drafted two of those players.

Grade: F | To get that little production from three players is a huge miss. Drafting Caboclo 20th is an even bigger one. 

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Detroit PIstons

Picks: Spencer Dinwiddie (No. 38)

The Pistons drafted two players in three years in the second round that would be very important pieces in their franchise if they hadn’t traded them away. In 2012, they drafted Khris Middleton. In 2014, it was Dinwiddie with the 38th pick. To be fair to Detroit, Dinwiddie played 46 games over two seasons, averaging 4.6 points per game during his time in the Motor City. No one thought he would turn into the 20 points, 6.8 assist, 3.5 rebounds guy that he was in Brooklyn this season. But, it’s just the Pistons luck that they traded away another ultimately good player that could help pull them out of mediocrity. It’s especially tough when you realize they traded him for Cameron Bairstow, who was also drafted in this class and is now out of the league. 

Grade: A | We aren’t talking about front office decisions two years after this draft. That grade would not be good, but as for the pick Detroit made on draft night, they got one of the best values in the second round.

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Washington Wizards

Picks: Jordan Clarkson (No. 46)

On June 26, 2014, the Wizards selected Clarkson with the No. 46 pick. On June 27, 2014, the Wizards traded one of the 10 best players in this draft to the Lakers for cash. Clarkson is second in points, sixth in assists and 18th in win shares in this draft class and once again finds himself as an important part of a good team heading to the playoffs — this time in Utah.

Grade: A | He never wore a Wizards uniform, but he’s without a doubt one of the highest value picks in this draft relative to where he was drafted. 

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Indiana Pacers

Picks: Louis Labeyrie (No. 57)

The Pacers were one of the best teams in the East in 2013-14, going 56-26 and losing to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals. As a result, they had very little to do on draft night. They traded their 2014 first round pick for Luis Scola in July of 2013, which turned out to be a smart move. Labeyrie played zero NBA games, par for the course for a No. 57 pick.

Grade: C | The 57th pick is always a shot in the dark. The Pacers missed, but most teams do.

Photo by: Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons

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