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.
Joel’s Notebook: There’s nothing quite so anticlimactic as the Cleveland Cavaliers earning the top overall selection in yet another draft (this one makes it three of the last four), but at least all those teams that purposefully tanked weren’t rewarded for their consistently and embarrassingly awful play this past season. Of course, Milwaukee and Philadelphia both ended up with top-three picks, which in this draft means they’ll probably end up with franchise-altering talents anyway, but the top selection went to a team that actually gave making the playoffs a solid effort. That’s good, at least, but Cleveland? They’ve gotten too creative with their lottery picks in the past. Let’s hope they make the right call this time around and take Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.
The most disappointing lottery scenario of the night came at the hands of the Detroit Pistons, who needed to have their pick in the top eight to keep it, and since the No. 9 team leapfrogged them, their pick goes to Charlotte, who gets back into the lottery after having to fork over their own No. 16 pick to Chicago.
Fans of the Boston Celtics and L.A. Lakers can’t be happy with their picks, either, but in my mock draft they end up with pretty solid talents, anyway. Julius Randle and Marcus Smart will probably end up being two of the top four or five players in this draft, so if one or both falls to that six or seven range, L.A. and Boston won’t end up faring quite so badly.
As for why Dario Saric is a top-five pick this week, Utah at No. 5 makes a lot of sense if Wiggins, Parker, Dante Exum and Joel Embiid are the four that come off the board first, as expected. People don’t know much about Saric, but he’s a mature and versatile Euro prospect coming off a really good year overseas. He’s definitely a lottery talent, and having him go as high as No. 5 isn’t as crazy as it may sound.
Alex’s Notebook: With the Orlando Magic falling to the No. 4 pick, they may have an easy decision on draft night. If the first three picks are some combination of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid (as projected), they will have Dante Exum fall into their lap.
At No. 4, he would not only be the best player available, but he would also fill the biggest need for the Magic since they don’t have a long-term solution at point guard. If Orlando had won the lottery, they likely would’ve taken a serious look at Exum; now, they may be able to draft him without having to explain the move or risk passing on like Wiggins, Parker or Embiid.
Obviously, it’s possible that Exum could be one of the first three players off of the board, in which case the Magic would have to go in another direction. But if he’s there when Rob Hennigan and his staff are on the clock, he would be an excellent pick for this organization.
A backcourt of Exum and Victor Oladipo would be very interesting and scary for years to come as the duo develops. Remember, the Magic have been looking for their point guard of the future for awhile now. It was rumored that Orlando wanted to draft Marcus Smart with the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft before he decided to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season.
Exum could be the star that the Magic have been looking for, as well as the facilitator who can get the most out of Orlando’s young pieces such as Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless among others. The Magic also have the No. 12 pick in the draft, which would still allow them to draft a wing (I have them picking James Young) or the best player available.
This is an important draft for the Magic, but they shouldn’t have a tough choice to make if Wiggins, Parker and Embiid are gone, and Exum falls to them.
Yannis’ Notebook: Say what you want about Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie and how he went about last season with no intentions of winning, the team could not be in much of a better position than they are right now. With last year’s Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams and three lottery picks set to make their debut next year, they have gone from a team stuck in the middle to one with a young core that they can potentially build the next great 76ers team off of.
The big question is which direction does he go in on draft night? The third overall pick is not what he was hoping for, but because each of the top three prospects – Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins – declared, they’re going to end up with one of the guys they were going to consider with the top overall selection anyway.
At three, they’re basically going to have their decision made by what the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks do. Where things get interesting is at the 10th selection. There are going to be far more options to consider at that spot and with just about every position outside of point guard (and whatever position the No. 3 pick plays) being a justifiable need to address, anything is possible.
It’s important to note that the 76ers are going to have five second-round picks. With the small forward and power forward positions having a lot of depth, the 76ers could be inclined to look for a center or shooting guard at this spot. Last year’s No. 6 overall selection, Nerlens Noel, has been projected as a center by many, but power forward could end up being his more natural position.
Assuming Wiggins is off the board and they end up with either Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid at three, shooting guard seems the most likely. The 76ers will likely have their choice of James Young, Gary Harris, Nik Stauskas, Zach LaVine and P.J. Hairston – although the latter two would be somewhat of a reach if the 76ers took them at 10.
There’s always the possibility of the 76ers trading out of this spot as well. A team like the Phoenix Suns or Chicago Bulls with multiple first-round picks may want to try and flip those for the opportunity to move up.
No matter what happens, it’s hard to envision the 76ers not walking away as one of the winners of this draft just as they were last year. Winning immediately hasn’t been a priority for Hinkie and they may not be competitive for most of next season, but the wheels are in motion for them to end up being far better than they were when he took over.
Steve’s Notebook: It happens every year. The NBA scouts and draft pundits get excited about the potential of some of the players that will clearly go at the top of the draft, and tend to marginalize the college players that have achieved things.
There are a few players that got nothing but praise by the decision makers at the combine in Chicago, and there is a real sense that a couple of them could go significantly higher in the draft as a result.
Creighton’s Doug McDermott has a fan club. That’s really the only way to say it. Maybe it’s because he played for so long and has been thoroughly scouted or maybe it’s because he can just flat out score, but teams and executives seem enamored with him. There are a hundred things McDermott may not be able to do in the NBA, but the one thing everyone agrees he can do is score. McDermott is believed to be very much in the mold of a Ryan Anderson or Kyle Korver type in the NBA that can just flat out shoot the ball. The belief is when he plays with a real NBA point guard and gets the kind of space stretch-fours get in the NBA, there is almost a consensus that he could excel. That does not mean McDermott is climbing into the top 10, but when the playoff teams start drafting or the teams with a second pick in the draft come around, you can expect the McDermott is going to go considerably higher than most people think unless he simply craters in workouts.
Michigan State’s Adreian Payne drew similar rave reviews. Several teams that met with him during the combine said he was one of the more polished and poised guys they had seen and that his body of work makes him a sure fire first-rounder. The question becomes how high will he go? Some teams drafting in the late teens-twenties have said they doubted he’d be there when they picked, but if he was, they’d be hard pressed to pass on him. The draft is always a game of who falls to you, but with Payne, he might be the guy that jumps up and knocks a guy out of the teens portion of the draft; he has that kind of fanfare around him among NBA teams.
Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early also gets lumped into this category, largely because NBA GMs had not really seen him until the tournament. Early’s demeanor in meetings and his overall approach to the process won him a lot of fans in the interview process and, much like Andrew Nicholson was a few years ago, he seems to be the most commonly talked about name in terms of a late draft sleeper. Early has a full dance card of workouts and team meetings, mainly because as much as team like him, it seems they want to test him significantly in this process. He has some fans, but he’ll have to earn his draft selection in workouts.
As much as the NBA Draft has become about potential, there are still a large number of teams looking for players who can play or contribute right away and some of the more experienced guys in this draft that may not be superstars in five years are still drawing a lot of attention, especially from those just outside the lottery. Teams that need another player to bolster their playoff status for next season will seriously consider these guys.
Ready to play is not a curse, especially not in the mid-teens to twenties in this draft class.