One more week to go…
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:
For the first time in a few iterations I’ve moved Kansas big man Joel Embiid back into the number one spot, but I just don’t feel good about it. The Cavaliers have a real predicament on their hands and have to be spending a lot of long nights debating over which direction they should go.
There’s the potential for this offseason to be franchise altering, even if they don’t persuade LeBron James to return. The No. 1 overall pick gives them the opportunity to get an instant-impact player from one of the most anticipated draft classes in recent memory; they also have ample cap space to fill out their other roster holes and add talent. However, while the right moves could vault them back into the contention, the wrong ones could extend their lottery streak until who knows how long.
There’s no doubt in my mind who has the most upside between Embiid, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. It’s Embiid and if there wasn’t any health concerns, the Cavaliers’ decision would have been made already. He’d be the selection and there wouldn’t be any reason to consider anyone else. That’s not the case, though. His health concerns are at least somewhat legitimate and have to terrify a Cavaliers team that cannot get this pick wrong.
Being four years removed from their last postseason appearance, the pressure is really on the Cavaliers to turn things around next season. They don’t have time to wait for development or for injuries to heal. They’ve done enough of that over the last four years. They need to win now, and Parker or Wiggins probably helps them more in year one and two.
Cavaliers GM David Griffin clearly has some pull within the organization and has owner Dan Gilbert on board with his plan. He’s not going to be run off with one bad year, but does he feel confident enough about his job security to take a gamble on Embiid when Wiggins and Parker hold so much potential to help them right away?
The biggest favor another team in the league could do for the Cavaliers right now is offer them a deal for the top selection that they cannot refuse and take the decision out of their hands. They need to guarantee that they’re in the top eight in the East next year and while anyone of the top three guys could help them with that, choosing the wrong one will lead to years of regret. Acquiring an established talent would make life a lot simpler in Cleveland.
Joel’s Notebook: There are rumors circulating that the Chicago Bulls, predictably, would like to package their two picks (No. 16 and No. 19) for a late lottery pick, but they’re having a hard time doing that in a draft where even a late lottery pick could make a pretty big difference for his new team. Ideally, though, they need shooting, especially considering the fact that they were 30th in the league in points per game and 27th in the league in three-point shooting last season. With the right trade they could get their hands on Nik Stauskas or Gary Harris to help with that, or if they were lucky, perhaps even Doug McDermott.
That’s Plan A, but in this week’s mock I have Harris falling to the Bulls at No. 16, anyway, plus they’re able to get themselves an apt yet inexpensive backup point guard in Tyler Ennis, as well. If they keep the picks, something like this is really their best-case scenario.
Other players Chicago is rumored to adore include Rodney Hood, Adreian Payne and Elfrid Payton. Doing the math based on the players available and how many of the good ones must, inevitably, be left on the board when Chicago picks, especially at No. 16, it looks like the Bulls are going to end up with at least one really nice player for their rotation, and two certainly isn’t out of the question.
There’s no reason to expect Chicago to stop attempting to package those two picks for a better one, with Denver at No. 11 being an ideal partner, as others have reported. Utah wants to move down, too, but Chicago’s two picks won’t be enough to earn a pick quite so high. However it works, the Bulls are going to be active in shopping these picks, but even if they stay put, it looks like some really good players are going to fall to them.
Alex’s Notebook: For the first time, I have the Orlando Magic picking someone other than Dante Exum at No. 4.
While Exum and Marcus Smart are obviously still possibilities for Orlando at No. 4, I’m starting to wonder if the Magic will go with Noah Vonleh with their first pick and then try to land their point guard of the future at No. 12.
Vonleh recently had a great workout with the Magic and it seems like he could be a serious possibility with the fourth overall pick. The 18-year-old is attractive because of his incredible upside, and he has an interesting skill set for a big man. At the combine, he measured in at 6’9.5 with a 7’4.25 wingspan and 9’0 standing reach. His max vertical was 37 inches and he had the second-largest hands of any player in NBA combine history. He’s a stretch four who has range out to NBA three and he could play alongside Nikola Vucevic, giving Orlando a very scary frontcourt for years to come.
The other reason I think the Magic may be willing to pass on Exum at No. 4 is that they really like Elfrid Payton, who I wrote about in last week’s notebook. He has been climbing draft boards lately and dominating workouts, and the Magic are said to be really high on him. Orlando worked out Payton recently and may have him in for a second workout before the draft. A backcourt of Payton and Victor Oladipo would be downright unstoppable on the defensive end.
It’s hard to get a read on the Magic, but they may feel that Vonleh and Payton is better than going with Exum and the best player available at No. 12 (such as, say, James Young or Jusuf Nurkic).
Vonleh and Payton would be very interesting for Orlando, and they would be able to fill two positions of need and land two players who have really impressed them during the pre-draft process.
Steve’s Notebook: With less than a week to go until the 2014 NBA Draft gets underway, things are starting to settle into place and there are a few things worth talking about:
The Cleveland Cavaliers still don’t have their pick locked in. While Joel Embiid is the favorite, the Cavs are still weighing their options and looking at other picks. At the end of the day Embiid looks to be the guy, but it’s far from decided.
The Bucks are one of the few teams that have gotten all four top level guys to commit to come in for a workout. Despite buzz that Embiid’s camp doesn’t want him in Milwaukee, they still met with the Bucks and are doing medical for them. That means all of the talk of Embiid’s camp trying to steer him away from the Bucks really becomes moot, which begs the question of why did he skip the combine again?
Elfrid Payton has done really well for himself in the workout process. He had some fans coming in, and now that they have put him through his paces there are several teams debating on where to draft him and whether they would have to trade up to get him. There has been talk that Chicago might be in the hunt and they would be willing to package their two first-round picks to land high enough to grab him. The Kings, who are sitting on the number eight, are also said to be very high on Payton.
The Lakers are scheduling a head to head with Marcus Smart and Payton, so that should tell you something about where Payton’s stock is at right now.
The flip side to that coin is Smart. Maybe it’s that there was so much expected, maybe it’s that he’s been talked about so much as being NBA ready, but word is he’s not working out incredibly well. In fact, sources say that the second visit with the Magic was more about trying to erase what some have said was a “ho-hum” first meeting. If you have been following the mock draft world, there was a sense that Smart was Orlando’s guy, then all of a sudden Noah Vonleh started being linked to the Magic; this was after the second Smart workout.
There is a sense that Smart may not go nearly as high as expected when this process started.
There is a very real smear campaign taking place with Vonleh and no one will say where it started. There is a smidge of truth to the idea that Vonleh was not in ideal shape for some of these workouts, but to classify him as “out of shape” as some have is completely untrue. Vonleh has re-worked his shot, which has some puzzled, especially with the timing. And there have been some back channel comments and questions about off-the-court stuff that are completely untrue. Most of the executives we’ve spoken to are enamored with what Vonleh could be at the next level, but it is clear Vonleh is getting smeared unfairly on a lot of fronts.
On the way down? Unfortunately it seems that James Young and possibly K.J. McDaniels are headed into the 20s. The nature of one guy’s stock going up is that another guy’s stock has to go down and it seems both Young and McDaniels are headed into the 20s. Around the combine, there was a sense that Young was a late lottery pick and that McDaniels was likely gone in the teens, however after some up and down workouts, it seems both could be headed down not up.
Young is very much on the radar for the Denver Nuggets and the Phoenix Suns and there is talk that Memphis could be his floor.
McDaniels is said to have had a strong workout for the Rockets and that could be his floor, but he is in the mix for the Raptors, Grizzlies and Bulls if they hang on to the 19.
The biggest riser in the process might be Missouri guard Jordan Clarkson. He was pegged as a second rounder at the start of the process and it now seems he may be supplanting a number of the “named” guy in the early twenties.
Three sleepers to watch for in the bottom of the first round — Jarnell Stokes, who has done really well in the process and is in the hunt in the bottom five. Spencer Dinwiddie, who a number of teams like a lot, but could slip into the early 30s. Vasilije Micic, who seems to be the top draft-and-stash guy now that Kristaps Porzingis pulled out of the 2014 Draft class.