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NBA PM: 2015 NBA Draft Better Than 2014?

The 2015 NBA Draft is going to be the one worth all the hype and praise if Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid stick around for their sophomore seasons… Gallinari’s suffers a costly setback in the worst case scenario for his knee recovery.

Yannis Koutroupis

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After months, or even years in some cases, of the 2014 NBA Draft class being hyped up to be one of the best since 2003, expectations and projections are quickly beginning to come back down to reality. It’s still a very promising group, but the talk of multiple franchise players coming out of it is nowhere near as prevalent as it used to be.

Kansas center Joel Embiid is now regarded as the best player available and it’s with good reason. The young big man has improved at a rapid rate. Once thought of as a multi-year project, he’s now the most intriguing center prospect to play college basketball since DeMarcus Cousins was at Kentucky. Rather than continuing to beat around the bush, here it is simply: he’s worth tanking for. Embiid has all the tools necessary to be the league’s next great big man. He’s barely halfway through his freshman year and teams have already seen enough to push him past the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker – the previous candidates for the top overall selection.

However, the NBA is more ready for Embiid than he is for it. After seeing that Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon stayed in school for more than a year, Embiid isn’t sure if he should do the same.

“I was curious because I want to be great, I want to be the best at my position one day,” Embiid said to ESPN’s Dana O’Neil. “I’m trying to learn everything and what other people did. All of the great big men went to college at least two or three years. I think it’s a big factor. I don’t know if it will always work, but I think it’s the best choice.

“I don’t know. I think [the NBA] would be too overwhelming for me right now. I’m not sure I’m ready.”

Passing up on the draft when you’re in contention for the top spot is far easier said than done, but it has been done. Look no further than Marcus Smart deciding to stay at Oklahoma State last year when he was almost a virtually lock to go in the top three, Cody Zeller sticking around for two years at Indiana when he could have been a lottery pick as a freshman, or Blake Griffin doing the same at Oklahoma.

Embiid isn’t the only top freshman to be lukewarm about being one-and-done. Parker also has his reservations. Like Embiid, he’ll have more reasons to leave than stay, but he’s always made it clear that he could stay.

“My wife, my son and I haven’t talked about it,” Jabari’s father, Sonny Parker told WEEI.com. “We honestly don’t know. After the season, we’ll talk about it. That’s what I told Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] when he was recruiting Jabari, and that’s what I tell him now. ‘We just want Jabari to enjoy the season.’ People can speculate all they want, but it’s not a discussion. Right now, he’s dealing with being a student-athlete at Duke. He’s not entertaining that.”

“We’re not thinking about that right now, and we don’t want him thinking about it,” added Sonny Parker. “He doesn’t want it to be a distraction for his teammates. I don’t know where they’re getting their information, because we really don’t know what he’s going to do. He just wants to have fun, concentrate on this season and enjoy school.”

In the case that Embiid and Parker do decide to stay in school, all of the talk about how great the 2014 NBA Draft class could be is going to become nearly extinct. It’s deep and rich of talent, but the absence of those two would be a huge loss for the class.

The 2014 class’ loss would be the 2015’s gain, though. And, probably in short order, it’d be the ’15 class getting all the hype and being compared to the likes of the aforementioned 2003 class or even 1996. Embiid and Parker would start the year at the top two spots, but there wouldn’t be a huge drop off after them.

Before the possibility of Embiid and Parker sticking around became public knowledge, the 2015 draft was already looking strong. It’s highlighted by five big men with All-Star potential in Jahlil Okafor (Duke), Myles Turner (Undecided), Cliff Alexander (Kansas), Trey Lyles (Kentucky) and Karl Towns (Kentucky). If those five were eligible to make the jump straight to the NBA this year, the only way one of them would fall out of the top 10 is because of team needs. They’re big time prospects and within short order you’ll be hearing a lot more about them along with SMU bound guard Emmanuel Mudiay, Arizona’s wing Stanley Johnson and Duke forward Justise Winslow among others.

The draft is such an inexact science and always so difficult to project. Because of that, it only seems fitting that next year’s class would end up being the one to really go crazy for. If Parker and Embiid are a part of it, there could be even more hype – and it would be completely justifiable.

Gallinari’s Costly Setback: This offseason Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari was told that he did not need reconstructive ACL surgery due to a knee injury suffered in April. Instead, only his torn meniscus was operated on. The belief at the time was that his ACL would heal on its own, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Gallinari underwent surgery today to repair the ACL, which will cause him to miss the 2013-14 NBA season in its entirety.

“Danilo’s knee required that he undergo reconstruction surgery of the ACL, which was successfully completed earlier this morning,” Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said. “Knowing Danilo’s drive and work ethic, we look forward to a full recovery and a healthy return to the court next season.”

With Gallinari out, the Nuggets will continue to rely heavily on Wilson Chandler, who has finally gotten over some health issues of his own and emerged as the team’s second-leading scorer with 13.5 points a contest. Quincy Miller and Jordan Hamilton, whose playing time would have been in jeopardy with Gallinari’s return, will continue to see the most minutes they have in their respective careers.

The Nuggets are currently 20-20 and three games out of the Western Conference playoffs.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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  1. Pingback: Draft Notes: Embiid, Parker, Smart | Hoops Rumors

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NBA Daily: Lessons From The 2018 NBA Draft

After a wild 2018 NBA Draft, here are four lessons and storylines worth watching over the next few years.

Ben Nadeau

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Now that the dust has settled on an unpredictable NBA Draft — what exactly have we learned? In amongst the unrelenting rumors, refused workouts and surprise reaches, there are a few key takeaways from Brooklyn. Of course, some of these are one-off instances, but others are definitely part of modern-day draft patterns. While draft night may sometimes seem like complete chaos or chance, each scenario on this rundown has been boiling over for weeks. Between passing on a talented prospect to letting an injured one slide, here are four important lessons from the 2018 NBA Draft.

Luka Dončić… Not The No. 1?

For months and months, it appeared as if Luka Dončić was poised to become the No. 1 overall pick in this draft. Even today, it’s hard to believe that somebody with Dončić’s age and resume wasn’t the top selection. In 2017-18 alone, the Slovenian took home EuroLeague MVP and Finals MVP plus ACB MVP, with championships in both leagues to boot — but here we are. Dončić averaged 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals over just 25 minutes per game, quickly transforming into the most well-rounded overseas prospect of all-time. But as impressive as Dončić was throughout the spring, the potential ceilings of both DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III eventually won out.

At 7-foot-1, Ayton’s 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game were undeniably worthy of a top selection too, pairing well alongside Devin Booker and Josh Jackson for the foreseeable future. While the jury is still out on Bagley III — his defense needs some major fine-tuning — he won’t take key touches away from De’Aaron Fox either. More or less, nobody wants to be the organization to miss on such a franchise-altering pick. The Suns, Kings and even the Hawks may eventually regret passing on Dončić, but when general managers’ entire careers can depend on making the right choice at the right time, it’s not difficult to understand why the top of the draft unfolded as it did.

Playing Hard To Get Doesn’t Always Work Out…

As draft boards began to take shape, there was one particularly interesting situation sitting at No. 4 overall. Jaren Jackson Jr., solidly leading the second tier of prospects, was looking like a lock at the Memphis Grizzlies’ pick — but with one major caveat: Jackson Jr. reportedly didn’t work out or give his medical information to the franchise. After he was drafted, Jackson Jr. called those rumors “a tad out of context” — but, obviously, those are some massive red flags. Either way, Memphis went with their gut and selected the talented forward anyway.

But beyond all that, Memphis absolutely made the right move by sticking to their guns. Putting a modern three-point shooting, defensive-minded athlete next to Marc Gasol should prove to be an absolute nightmare for years to come. Naturally, Jackson Jr. will get plenty of easy looks from the stellar Mike Conley Jr. too — so if the draftee was once apprehensive, surely that will pass soon. Still, it reflects on a larger NBA pattern, wherein which prospective athletes sensibly look to mold their own path out of college. With players trying to control their draft narratives more than ever, it’s reassuring to see that some franchises will take their target first and then figure out the rest.

We may never know Jackson Jr.’s full thought process behind not working out for the Grizzlies, but there’s a great chance that the former Spartan was made for Memphis’ tough brand of basketball — and we should all be glad we’ll get to see it.

…But Injuries Will Lead To A Slide

Michael Porter Jr. — what a year for him, huh?

After missing out on much of his only collegiate season due to back surgery, Porter Jr. promised that he was feeling better than ever. But over the last month, scouts and front offices were treated to canceled workouts and hazy uncertainty. And, at the end of the day, it probably scared a handful of franchises away from the talented scorer. Just this week, the Kings heavily considered Porter Jr. at No. 2 overall — but even with that sudden unlikelihood passing by, few thought he’d drop out of the top ten altogether. Outside of the guaranteed money that Porter Jr. will miss out on, redshirting his rookie year may also be on the table as well.

The inherent upside with Porter Jr. is obvious, but — similarly to the Dončić issue — it’s tough to ask franchise officials to stake their livelihood on the prospect’s health. If Porter Jr.’s lingering issues stay with him and he never reaches his mountain of potential, that’s a tough pill to swallow. The 19-year-old would fall all the way down to No. 14, where the Denver Nuggets gladly scooped him up. During the combine in May, Porter Jr. called himself the best player in the draft — but it’s now up to him to prove them all wrong.

The Mysterious Men Nearly Miss Out

Let’s rewind to early April. Villanova had been just crowned NCAA champions for the second time in three years, the NBA playoffs were soundly on the horizon and mock drafts had begun to consistently pour out. Early on, there were two athletic big men that looked like shoo-ins as first-rounders: Robert Williams and Mitchell Robinson. Despite their undercooked skill-sets, both players pulled out of the combine and then waited for the hype to build — except, well, it didn’t. Williams, who was typically projected in the early teens, slipped out of the lottery entirely, only to be rescued by the Boston Celtics at No. 27. Williams is a booming, powerful prospect, but he could’ve really benefited from competing against the other top prospects in May.

Although he’s now landed in an ideal situation with Brad Stevens, Al Horford and a process-driven Celtics squad, Williams likely cost himself a whole load of money over the last 30-plus days as well.

In Robinson’s case, many believed his floor was the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 25 — rumors swirling that the 7-foot-1 center even received a promise from the illustrious franchise. Instead, Robinson dropped to the New York Knicks at No. 36 overall. Robinson had originally committed to Western Kentucky in July of 2017 before dropping out to prepare for the draft. After skipping the combine last month, Robinson indeed exhibited the potential to be both a steady shot-blocker and three-point maker during his individual evaluations. But with little to go off of but high school highlight reels and small session workout tapes, he understandably fell.

Sometimes the hype is impossible to ignore, but not participating in the combine and staying as mysterious as possible hurt these ultra-talented prospects.

While the 2018 NBA Draft wasn’t quite the trade-heavy, drama-laden extravaganza much of the world expected, there are plenty of narratives to reflect upon. At the end of the day, the ink is barely dry on this year’s festivities and it’ll be some time before there’s any indication of these successes or failures. Still, there are lessons to be learned from every draft, workout or injury process and these are four conversations worth considering as the NBA quickly rolls into the summer league season.

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VIDEO: 2018 NBA Draft Winners

Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may have done better than expected.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may have done better than expected.

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Insiders Video

VIDEO: 2018 NBA Draft Losers

Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may not have done as well as expected.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may not have done as well as expected.

Continue Reading
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