Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ top writers will break down the latest news and notes around the 2014 NBA Draft. Included is a revised Mock Draft that reflects how each writer sees the draft landscape based on the latest news, workouts and information from in and around the process.
Here is Consensus Ver 2.0:
Check out Version 1.0
Yannis’ Notebook: The Cleveland Cavaliers recently joined the growing list of teams that are going to be looking for a new head coach this summer. With Mike Brown out, their approach for the NBA Draft is going to change dramatically.
Brown preferred to play a slower pace and prioritized defense over everything. The recently promoted David Griffin reportedly plans to hire a coach that pushes the tempo more and puts a strong emphasis on the long ball.
Positioned to draft ninth if the lottery plays out as projected, Griffin has two positions of major need to address: small forward and center. With only $36 million in guaranteed contracts on the books for next season, Griffin can really go in either direction and feel comfortable with being able to address the other in free agency. He’ll also have the bird rights to Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes, two veterans who are very capable of starting at the three and five.
As far as centers go, the top prize – Joel Embiid – will be long gone barring an unforeseen drop. The only other center prospect worth drafting in that range is Jusuf Nurkic. However, for a team that is going to enter next season with playoff aspirations, he may be too far away from being a consistent contributor for the Cavaliers to invest in right now. The pressure to win immediately is extreme, too extreme to justify going with such a big project, especially considering that they already have a couple.
At the small forward position, their options are much more vast and intriguing. Doug McDermott could really fit in well into an attack based around the guard play of quality attackers like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. He’s one of the best shooters college basketball has ever seen, and that’s generally a skill that translates well, especially for someone like McDermott who has a quick release and endless range. He does have his defensive deficiencies, though, and that remains a weakness of the Cavaliers. He’s also viewed as somewhat of a tweener and if he pans out being best suited to play the power forward position, he’s going to further muck up the log jam there created by Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett.
Dario Saric is a strong possibility for them. His stock is on the rise after a stellar campaign in the Adriatic League. He can score in a variety of ways and has really good size for a small forward, but there seems to be conflicting voices within his inner circle on whether he should come over right away. Stashing-and-dashing is not in the Cavaliers’ best interest with this pick. That’s a much more viable option for their high second-round pick.
In the end, James Young could be the guy who everyone in their war room agrees on because he meets so many of their needs. He’s young, but skilled and talented enough to contribute right away, especially offensively. He’s an impressive athlete who will thrive in transition and fit in nicely with the ball dominant Irving and Waiters as a serious spot-up shooting threat.
This is going to be Griffin’s first time being the head shot caller on draft night. He likely won’t have the benefit of landing the No. 1 pick as the Cavaliers have in two of the last three drafts, but with a class as deep as this one, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to walk away with a difference maker.
Joel’s Notebook: Attending the Draft Combine always helps put a little bit of perspective into these mock drafts because meeting these guys in person gives a sense of which players will see their stocks rise, simply because they’re bound to interview well. Charisma can go a long way in this process, and when combined with talent it can be hard to pass up on players who teams like on a personal level. Rodney Hood, Doug McDermott, Shabazz Napier and Dante Exum were all really good with the media on Thursday and are sure to dangle that charm in front of NBA execs looking to potentially hire them.
As for this week’s mock, Exum gets a boost to No. 2 for a couple of reasons: He and Philly head coach Brett Brown have history working together in Australia, and Exum said that some of the teams he spoke with are interested in running two point-guard sets for their offenses. Philadelphia was the first team that came to mind there (though an inevitable interview with Orlando will create the same possibility). Can you imagine how long that backcourt would be with Exum and Michael Carter-Williams? Exum on the Sixers is really intriguing, and a fit I’m really starting to like the more I think about it.
Tyler Ennis sees a boost this week, too, as his proclamation that he’s the best point guard in the draft shows a confidence that’s easy to buy into. Orlando, if they do end up with Parker, Wiggins or Embiid with their first pick, will hope against hope that Ennis drops to them at No. 12, but with a likely rise in interest coming for Ennis, they may have to settle for someone else there.
Doug McDermott is a heck of a scorer, but I think he drops out of the lottery. Chicago would be a great fit for him. Nik Stauskas in Toronto would make Raptors fans extremely happy, and anybody that has Shabazz Napier outside of the first round is crazy. He’s small, but has championship pedigree and can shoot the lights out. I like him as a late first-rounder.
Alex’s Notebook: Cleanthony Early is an intriguing player, who could move up draft boards once he gets in the workout setting. He’s currently being projected as a late first-round pick, but he could move into the late teens or early 20s if he handles his business during the pre-draft process.
Early is 23 years old, which makes him one of the oldest players in this draft class. That’s something that may hurt him through this process, since teams typically want to bring in younger players. However, Early is capable of helping a team right away and he still has room to grow as a player.
He was terrific in the NCAA Tournament, leading Wichita State and averaging 27 points and seven rebounds while shooting 65.6 percent from the field. Executives told Basketball Insiders that Early was one of the players who helped themselves the most during March Madness. He was initially being projected as a mid-second round pick, but climbed after shining on college basketball’s biggest stage.
One reason that Early may go higher than expected is that he hasn’t received the exposure that a lot of these other first-round prospects have gotten. One NBA executive said that he’s the least scouted college player who is currently projected to go in the first round, since he played at Wichita State and didn’t get as much national attention as other players. Once teams watch Early’s film and watch him in individual workouts, he could help himself.
Early was named to the Wooden All-American Team after averaging 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds and leading Wichita State to a perfect 34-0 regular season record.
Before the tournament, I spoke to Early and asked if him if he has what it takes to be a significant contributor in the NBA.
“I have played with a lot of professional basketball players that are in the NBA, guys that went to the NBA recently or are supposedly going to the NBA this year and I’ve always competed with them at a level to where I knew I was good and knew I could potentially make it there,” Early said. “It was just a matter of getting that exposure and being seen and just working my butt off. I just believed that I had to get so good that they can’t ignore [me], you know what I mean? I feel like my game can translate to the NBA because I always know that I’m going to work hard to improve on anything I need to improve on.”
Steve’s Notebook: After spending the last couple of days at the 2014 NBA Draft Combine talking about this draft class with NBA executives and scouts, there is one thing glaringly clear: Teams don’t have a lot of favorite players yet, at least not a consensus favorite anyway.
There are a few new scenarios playing out, some of it as a result of top overall prospects Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins opting not to attend the combine. Australian guard Dante Exum did well for himself. He met with a few teams who found him engaging, smart and humble and he showed strong athletic testing numbers, specifically those relating to speed and agility.
Julius Randle did well for himself too. The teams that met with him said he was everything advertised and a little more. The buzz around him is he may be the player most ready to contribute on the draft board and there is a real sense that he is in contention for the top overall pick depending on who lands it.
There is real concern about Joel Embiid and his back. A number of teams commented that if Embiid’s camp plays the “selective” interview and workout game, and limits him to visiting with just the top three teams, he may have a draft day tumble of Jared Sullinger proportions. Back injuries are no joke among NBA executives and the fact that this is the second back related injury in Embiid’s very short career, there is real concern.
By and large this draft class seems to be filled with genuinely good guys. One executive commented that after meeting with 18 players in this class, ranked all over the board that only one player came across as selfish and self-centered. The rest were largely really good guys and more importantly came across as really good teammates.
The love affair with Cleanthony Early continued, especially after teams that did not scout him heavily especially at the general manager and team president level were simply blown away with how he carries himself. He came across in meetings as a quiet and humble kid. Very unassuming. He backed up the personal component with a good showing on the floor in drills.
The NBA Draft Lottery will be held on May 20, so from there things will really start to take shape as teams can really narrow in on players in their pick range.
While the draft combine was a first look for a number of players, there will be a big group workout in Los Angeles hosted by the L.A. Clippers and members of all 30 teams. The players invited to this workout were mainly those fringe guys that did not get into the combine, although a number of the combine invites projected in the second round have committed to attend and compete, so in short order teams will get to see some real basketball action and that should start to change the landscape of the draft.