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.
This week our team rolls out a look at all 60 picks in the 2014 NBA Draft, so here is how we see it:
Yannis’ Notebook: There are some intriguing international prospects in this year’s draft, led by Australian point guard Dante Exum, whose popularity has sky rocketed in recent weeks. Two others, Dario Saric and Jusuf Nurkic, are legitimate potential lottery picks as well, but their stock could tumble a bit on draft night.
First, what is there to like about them?
In the case of Saric, he’s coming off of an MVP run in the Adriatic League. He was a first teamer at the FIBA U19 tournament last summer along with Exum and has physical gifts that would be above average at either forward position. At 6’10, he’s versatile, skilled and has a high basketball IQ. There’s very little he can’t do on the floor and despite his youth, he’s quite experienced against high-level competition.
Meanwhile Nurkic is a physically imposing, low-post-oriented center who has an impressive feel for the game. His mannerisms on the court are very similar to Marc Gasol. He’s improved at a fast rate already and looks like he is only going to get better as he gets more experience. The increase in the speed of the game and the athleticism he’s facing will take some adjusting, but he’s well worth the gamble considering the lack of talent at the position in this draft class and his upside.
What works against Saric and Nurkic more than anything they’re incapable of doing on the court at this stage of their careers is their contract situations. There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding Saric’s representation and his desire to come over immediately. He signed a three-year extension overseas, so his buyout could discourage him from coming over next season. He’s quickly becoming one of the biggest stars overseas and could make up to $8 million over the next three seasons, so the money is good as well. A report surfaced last week that he would come over immediately if the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics draft him. However, they’re both looking for help as soon as next year, and may not take the risk of drafting someone they’re not positive they can have on their roster next season. If Saric slips, he’s going to fall deeper down the rookie pay scale, making his buyout tougher to cover and decreasing the appeal of making the leap anytime soon. At one point, it didn’t even look like was going to stay in the draft. He has until 5 p.m. ET on June 16 to pull out if he and his camp desires.
Nurkic just signed a four-year extension with his club team, locking him up until 2018. Very little details on the deal have leaked; it’s completely unknown how much it will take to get him out of the contract. Considering how hot his stock has been, the decision to sign the extension, especially if it has a big buyout clause, is curious. He may not have interest in coming over immediately either. He’s a project who is likely going to need a couple of years to really make his mark, so staying overseas isn’t the worst thing for him, but teams drafting in the lottery may not have that kind of patience.
NBA teams are allowed to play $575,000 of an international buyout, so the fine print on the contracts of Nurkic and Saric are going to be very key come draft night – assuming they stay in.
Alex’s Notebook: Entering the pre-draft process, Rodney Hood was being projected in the 20-to-25 range, but he has really helped in his draft stock lately. Now, it seems that Hood will likely go just outside of the lottery.
In this week’s mock, I have Hood going to the Atlanta Hawks at No. 15, and it’s hard to imagine him falling past the Chicago Bulls at No. 16 given their need for scoring and three-point shooting.
The former Duke forward is automatic shooting the ball from just about anywhere on the court. He has really impressed teams in workouts with his scoring ability and gained a lot of new fans in front offices around the league.
Even though Hood’s shooting is his biggest strength, he’s determined to show teams that he’s much more than just a shooter. He’s an efficient scorer with a high basketball IQ, and he has been working hard to improve his ballhandling and finishing at the rim so he can be a more well-rounded scorer. He has also been spending a lot of time in the weight room to bulk up and add some strength to his lanky frame. Hood is also determined to prove that he’s a better defender than advertised.
Hood is working extremely hard, doing two-a-days in the gym at IMG Academy, and he’s also doing a number of other things to prepare for the pre-draft process including vision training, swimming drills, weightlifting, drills on the IMG football field and following a professional nutrition plan among others.
The only reason Hood isn’t being talked about as a lottery pick is because he’ll turn 22 years old in October. Some teams may feel that he doesn’t have the upside of a younger, teenage prospect. However, don’t be surprised if Hood has a long and successful career in the league, regardless of where he’s picked.
Joel’s Notebook: Since this is the first time that we’ve done a consensus mock with a second round attached to it, I thought it would be appropriate to explore who I believe some of the second-round values may be in this upcoming draft.
Last year, there wasn’t a whole lot of contribution coming from players selected deep in the draft, but this is a year in which GMs seem to believe value can be found later in the draft than usual. Philadelphia, for example, has five picks in the second round, so they’ve got a pretty decent chance of cashing in on some of the next tier of talent.
In any event, one of my favorite players likely to be chosen in the second round is Russ Smith, a little bitty shooting guard in a point guard’s body whom I love for his maturity, professionalism and winning pedigree. He won’t be a starter in the NBA, but he has the opportunity to make a roster and be a contributor.
Isaiah Austin’s blindness in one eye is killing his stock, and he had a horrible season last year, but his combination of size and athleticism is definitely worth a gamble in the second round, especially since he was, at one point, considered a lottery talent.
James McAdoo might have been a lottery pick a year or two ago as well, but even though we’ve seen his ceiling and it’s relatively low, his floor is also pretty high. He’s another mature kid who isn’t looking to be a star, just make it onto a roster, play hard defense and chip in how he can. He’s exactly the sort of second-round pick that has a long NBA career, even if he never does end up an All-Star.
Bogdan Bogdanovic is a bubble first-rounder, but he’s a heck of a shooting guard that’s good enough to eventually be an NBA starter, and Thanasis Antetokounmpo will be intriguing just because of how good his brother was in his rookie campaign. There are more, but this list is already getting pretty long.
The lesson here is that there are some really good players available in the second round, with those mentioned above likely topping the list of those available.
Steve’s Notebook: Houston, we have a problem… Okay, maybe it’s not Houston’s problem, but for whatever unexplainable reason Indiana’s Noah Vonleh has decided to radically alter his shooting motion as he tries to audition for NBA teams.
While changing shot mechanics and fine tuning defects in a player’s game is common in the draft preparation process, some are wondering why Vonleh, a solid shooter in college, would re-work his shot now, rather than waiting and addressing those issues after he is drafted.
Vonleh has just started the process of seeing teams, and while none of them seem to be scared away by Vonleh’s new jumper, he has introduced a wrinkle in the evaluation process. Many of the teams that have him high on their board have done so based on the hours they have spent scouting him, only to find a different looking player in their gym during workouts.
That might be the plan; show some improvement. Vonleh is still shooting it well, it’s the manner in which the shot is coming off that has changed.
It’s a curious move for a guy who likely did not need to make such a change, and one observer commented that it was clear he was pushing back on his new mechanics in workouts.
One high level executive commented that the problem with altering mechanics so quickly is that in pressure situations most guys revert back to what their comfortable with, and that makes for an inconsistent result.
Vonleh still draws rave reviews physically, and the teams that are hosting him for workouts are very much in the mix to drafting him. Vonleh has been in to see the Kings this week and also has the Lakers, Celtics and Magic on his schedule.
Vonleh is expected to be off the board in the top 10, and it seem very likely he could be gone in the top six or seven.
It seems odd for someone so highly regarded to alter the key aspect of his game that got him here, but it will be interesting to see how his workouts go.