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.
So here is how we see it:
Yannis’ Notebook: My mock indicates the worst-case scenario for Julius Randle, stemming from the reports that he’s going to need foot surgery after the draft. Randle has disputed the claim and while nobody knows his body better than he does, let’s be real here: Adrian Wojnarowski is the most credible and informed reporter in the game. He wouldn’t have put it out there if he didn’t have it from multiple sources.
Going off of the assumption that he is indeed going to need post-draft surgery, it’s going to have an inevitable impact on his draft stock. The competition at the power forward position is fierce. There’s little that separates Randle from Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon. They are all fine prospects, but what did give Randle a little bit of an edge over them was his NBA readiness.
Randle is considered one of the most pro-ready prospects in the draft, but missing out on summer league is going to be a real detriment to his development. While everyone else is going to be working out, getting experience playing against professionals and becoming familiar with their system and coaching staff, Randle is going to be restricted to just rehabbing and spectating. He’s expected to be cleared by training camp, but he’s really going to be playing catch up at that point.
In the end, the team that picks Randle is drafting him more for what he’s going to do over the next three years than the 6-8 weeks after the draft. However, making a multi-million investment in someone who needs surgery is a risky move. There’s a lot more uncertainty surrounding Randle, and as a result the other players at his position are going to be given more thought by the teams that were considering drafting him.
Joel’s Notebook: If Julius Randle does have to get foot surgery, as suggested by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski on Thursday, I don’t think it will affect his draft stock all that much, especially since he was probably already going to fall in the five-to-nine range, anyway. That’s where I still see him, though Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon and Noah Vonleh may now get snatched up before him.
Last year, three of the top six picks were injured when they were selected, as teams threw caution to the wind in using their top selections on banged-up guys. That didn’t turn out all that well, though, as both Alex Len and Anthony Bennett had unbelievably disappointing rookie seasons and Nerlens Noel never even got on the floor. Let’s hope Randle has a better time getting rehabbed and back to real NBA action, both for his sake and the sake of the team that selects him.
Otherwise, this week feels pretty standard, though I think it’s the first time I’ve ever had Nik Stauskas and Kyle Anderson in the lottery, as well as the first time I’ve had Jusuf Nurkic fall out of it. Nurkic recently signed a four-year contract with his European team, which was a weird thing for him to do considering his draft stock had been so high, but that uncertainty is probably enough to push him out of the lottery. He’s the second-best center prospect in a year where there aren’t many of those, so someone’s going to reach on him. Just not sure it will be a lottery team.
Alex’s Notebook: One of the interesting things about submitting this mock draft every week is hearing what NBA executives think of my picks. Recently, I keep hearing the same thing: “You have Elfrid Payton too low.”
Last week, I had Payton falling to the end of the first round. However, more and more league sources have said it’s unlikely Payton will be on the board that long. Payton is drawing interest from several teams in the teens, and he is even getting serious looks from lottery teams.
The 6’3 point guard has been dominating workouts, which has really helped his draft stock. Initially, there were some questions about how he would fare against NBA-level competition, since he played at Louisiana-Lafayette and didn’t face the toughest opposition. However, after several impressive workouts, that no longer seems to be a concern. Executives who have watched Payton work out have raved about him.
Last season, Payton averaged 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals while leading ULL to the NCAA Tournament. He emerged as one of the best players in the nation, ranking 11th in the country in field goals (237), 11th in assists (208), ninth in steals (80) and sixth in points produced (732). His lockdown defense earned him the Lefty Driesell Award, which is given to college basketball’s top defensive player.
Payton filled the stat sheet in college and should be able to do the same in the NBA with his versatility. He had a 34-point, 11-assist, 11-rebound, five-steal game against Louisiana-Monroe in January; a 31-point, 13-rebound, three-assist outing against Western Kentucky in March; and in the NCAA Tournament against three-seeded Creighton he had 24 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Don’t be surprised if Payton continues to gain momentum and climb draft boards in the coming weeks. He may not have the name recognition of other point guard prospects like Tyler Ennis and Shabazz Napier, but he’s killing it in workouts and becoming a favorite of many executives around the league.
Steve’s Notebook: Things are starting to take shape on the NBA draft front, with a number of players sort of finding their floor.
There are a couple of phrases to keep in mind. A player’s floor is the lowest pick they feel they may go based on what teams are telling them during feedback sessions, while the ceiling is the pick that could be the highest.
There are a couple of players who feel like they have commitments, which means they will start to jockey those lower level commitments into potentially a higher overall draft positions. Some may take the bird in the hand and shut things down on the work out front too.
Here are a few names to watch:
- Doug McDermott seems locked in at the Charlotte Hornets with the ninth pick. There is a chance they go in a different direction especially with Julius Randle poised to tumble a little amid reports of a badly healed foot that may require corrective surgery. But McDermott may have found his floor at number nine.
- There is considerable chatter that Kristaps Porzingis is locked in to the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 21. That wouldn’t stop a team above them from grabbing him, but the 18-year-old Porzingis may have found his floor with a team that’s more than willing to be patient with his progress. Porzingis is said to have an NBA out in his current contract estimated at 1.2 million EUR (roughly $1.6 million US), with his drafting team able to contribute $600,000 of that. Going higher surely makes eating the buyout a little more appealing, however having the threat of not coming over does help influence where he may end up.
- Elfrid Payton seems to have done well for himself in the workout process so far, with a number of people claiming he may have a commitment from the Boston Celtics at No. 17. The problem is the Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic all seem to be fairly high on him as well. Payton is also a strong possibility for the Sacramento Kings if they trade down from their current eighth pick. Payton may have found his floor, but on draft night it might not matter.
- Nike Stauskas has done really well for himself, almost assuring a green room invite and a top 15 selection. The question for Stauskas is can he knock someone out of the top 10? There is a sense he might.
- Don’t write Dante Exum out of the picture in Orlando just yet, but this week’s mock does put Marcus Smart in Orlando at the number four spot. The Magic are very high on Smart, mainly because he is a ready to play player they feel can really shore up their defense. Exum is scheduled to meet with the Magic next week and that may change the thinking. The Magic have had Smart in for two visits already, with some saying there were unanswered questions from the first visit, hence the second visit.
Exum has scheduled just three workouts at this point – Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Orlando. He is not expected to work out for any team outside the top four.
Smart seems to be the front runner at this point, only because Orlando has not seen Exum up close yet. It’s far from decided at number four, with sources saying Exum would not have come in to Orlando if they had not assured him he was a viable candidate at number four, but Smart gets the nod this week.
I will be holding down the NBA Saturday tomorrow, which will feature a pick by pick breakdown of each of my selections and the logic behind each one. So stay tuned for that.