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NBA PM: Executives in Love With Joel Embiid

NBA executives love Joel Embiid and he may end up being the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft … LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant tonight

Alex Kennedy

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Several months ago, nobody thought that Joel Embiid would be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He wasn’t even expected to be the No. 1 prospect on Kansas’ campus.

In a loaded draft class that’s expected to include potential stars Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart and Dante Exum among others, Embiid was an afterthought prior to the start of the season. After all, the Cameroonian seven-footer just started playing organized basketball in late 2011. Whenever Embiid’s name did come up, the word “raw” was sure to follow.

However, 20 games later, Embiid has been a monster. He has developed much quicker than expected, showing significant progress from game to game. He’s averaging 11.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 22.5 minutes while shooting 66.7 percent from the field.

Embiid has shown glimpses of brilliance throughout the season. Two weeks ago, he had 16 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and two steals in a win over No. 8 Iowa State. The very next game, Embiid nearly recorded a triple-double in a win over No. 9 Oklahoma State, finishing with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks. It’s remarkable how far he has come as a player in such a short amount of time.

NBA scouts and executives are blown away by the center’s development. Many teams now view Embiid as the best prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft. Some are so high on the center that they say the gap between Embiid and the rest of the pack – Wiggins, Parker, Randle, Smart, Exum, etc. – is significant. That’s why Embiid has climbed to No. 1 in most mock drafts in recent weeks. More and more teams are moving the big man up their draft board, and believe he has the highest ceiling of all the 2014 prospects.

This would’ve sounded crazy until very recently, but NBA decision-makers have fallen in love with Embiid. When an executive starts talking about things they like about Embiid, they can go on forever. They drool over his graceful movements, soft touch, exceptional footwork, incredible instincts, high basketball IQ, 7’5 wingspan, extraordinary athleticism and, of course, limitless potential. He’s drawn comparisons to Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon, which may seem crazy, but you can’t help but notice a lot of The Dream’s traits in Embiid when watching him play.

In 2011, Embiid played organized basketball for the first time when Luc Richard Mbah a Moute traveled to his native Cameroon to hold a basketball camp. Embiid hadn’t even watched much basketball at that point, but he was able to pick up on the game quickly.

According to Jason King of Bleacher Report, Embiid was able to translate skills he learned from other sports over to basketball. His footwork was honed on the soccer field, while his aggression and blocking ability originated on the volleyball court. Embiid’s father, Thomas, actually wanted his son to pursue a professional volleyball career in Europe, and had to be persuaded to let his son attend Mbah a Moute’s alma mater, Montverde Academy, to pursue his professional basketball dreams.

At this point, it’s looking like Mr. Embiid made the right decision. If his son is the top pick in this year’s draft, Embiid would make $4,592,200 in his first year and potentially more than $20 million on his first contract. Embiid is a strong candidate for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft and he won’t slip much further if another prospect ends up going first overall.

Not bad for a kid who just recently started taking basketball seriously.

LeBron James, Kevin Durant Set to Face Off

Tonight on ESPN, LeBron James’ Miami HEAT and Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder will go head-to-head, putting arguably the two best basketball players on the planet against one another. Both players are looking forward to the match-up.

“Oh yeah, it’s a challenge,” James said of covering Durant, according to Fox Sports. “It’s not secondary it’s first-dary. He’s one of the toughest coverages. It’s between him and (Carmelo Anthony) for me individually. It’s a game within a game. You want to win, but you also want to try to do your part in who you’re going against. I like going against the best and K.D.’s definitely up there.”

“I’m looking forward to just going up against him,” Durant said James, according to NewsOK.com. “Everybody wants to see the one-on-one matchup. I know that’s the big thing. But we’re going to matchup together, so I’m sure you guys are going to get what you want. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the Thunder versus the HEAT, and it’s going to be fun playing against them.”

James said that it’s impossible to guard Durant one-on-one, which Durant said was “flattering.” Durant returned the compliment, saying that James is one of the most difficult players to cover in the league.

“He’s a tough guy to cover,” Durant said. “But I’m going to go out there and play with extreme effort every play and just give it my all and rely on my teammates. I know I can’t do nothing on this court by myself. I just got to rely on my teammates.”

Right now, Durant and James are locked in a race for this season’s Most Valuable Player award. James has taken home the trophy in four of the past five season, with Durant finishing second three times. Both players downplayed the importance of winning MVP.

“It doesn’t rank too much,” James said. “It’s a great accomplishment and I thank my teammates every time I get a chance to be part of that. But like I said, I love being the MVP of our team. If it results in me being MVP of the league from among your peers, it’s a great achievement.”

“You guys pump that up,” Durant said of the media hyping up the MVP race. “Fans pump that up more than the players, I think. Every day is a process for me. I’m just trying to work every single day to get better. And at the end of the year, I guess, we’ll see where we’re at. But every single day, I just try not to look past it and just keep working and see where we are. I try not to worry about that because I can’t control none of that. All I can control is how I play, how I approach the game and how I prepare and the rest will take care of itself.”

This season, James is averaging 26 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists. Durant is averaging 31.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: The Top of The 2018 Draft Is Getting Crowded

The top of the projected 2018 NBA Draft is starting to get interesting, mainly because so many potential draft prospects are having incredibly dominant seasons.

Steve Kyler

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Things Are Getting Interesting

While the projected 2018 NBA Draft class doesn’t seem to have a future superstar sitting at the top of the board, there are potentially four players that are really looking the part of future NBA All-Stars and it’s making the top of the class very interesting.

Say what you want about stats, but there is little doubt that the numbers some of the top prospects are posting so far this season are pretty compelling.

Duke’s Marvin Bagley III is averaging 21.1 points per game to go with 10.9 rebounds. His 61.7 percent field goal average is impressive, especially when you consider he’s knocking in 34.6% of his three (9-26 on the season). Bagley has a 32.2 PER with a 64.6 True Shooting percentage and a 26.7 usage rate. In short, highly productive almost everywhere without having to own the basketball.

Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton is posting similarly ridiculous numbers, 19.5 points per game with 11.4 rebounds. His 61.7 percent from the field also comes with an impressive 30.4 percent three-point average (7-23 on the season). Ayton’s 32.3 PER is a nose higher than Bagley. He is also posting a whopping 65.6 True Shooting percentage with a 26.7 percentage usage rate. Again, highly productive in every way without being so ball-dominant to skew the numbers. Ayton hit the ground running at Arizona and really hasn’t had a bad game yet.

Oklahoma’s Trae Young has burst into the top-five discussion in a huge way. His 6’2 180-pound frame looks small on the court, but his game has been tremendous. Young is posting 28.7 points per game with a monster 10.4 assists per contest. He is grabbing 3.5 rebounds while shooting 48.5 percent from the field, 57.1 percent from two-point range and a scorching 41.1 percent from three (44 of 107 on the season). Young’s 38 PER is tops in all of college basketball. He has a 65.2 True Shooting percentage and a 36.1 usage rate. Unlike Bagley and Ayton, Young does control the ball, but that’s typical for an impact scoring point guard. He offsets the ball dominance with incredible assist numbers. He is also pretty spectacular to watch.

International phenom Luka Dončić is having a solid season in his own right, although his averages are lower because he doesn’t play the same volume of minutes as the NCAA collegiate prospects. In 26 games in both the Euroleague and the ACB, Dončić is posting 16.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per contest. He is shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from international three (48 of 135 on the season). Dončić is posting a 28.2 PER in Euroleague play and a 23.7 PER in ACB play. Dončić’s True Shooting numbers in Euroleague play are impressive at 66.2 percent. In ACB play his number drop a bit to 58.1 percent. His usage numbers illustrate the same slip. In Euroleague play, he posts a 30 percent usage rate while posting a 26.6 percent usage rate in ACB. Dončić typically plays more minutes and a larger role in Euroleague play. Hence the stat shift. If you haven’t seen him play, he’s so instinctual and gifted it easy to see why many see him as the top pick.

There are some compelling storylines to watch towards the top of the NBA draft board, which is likely why so many NBA executives seem split on who they would peg as the top talent in the projected 2018 Draft class.

So, with that out the way, lets jump into the latest first-round 2018 NBA Mock Draft:

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Boston.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would not convey.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: Another 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 12/13/17

Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler drops his latest 2018 first-round NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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A little less than a month ago we dropped the first 2018 NBA Mock Draft, which was met with a lot of disdain. Which is often a good thing because it sparks the discussion in NBA circles.

Since that Mock dropped, we’ve seen a bit more play out of some of the top prospects and many of the assumptions made almost a month ago are starting to settle into place a little more clearly.

The prevailing thought from NBA scouts and executives is that the possible 2018 NBA Draft class has a lot more questions than answers. The common view is that outside of the top 3 or 4 players there could be a very wide range on who the next 10-12 players will be; so expect for the second tier to evolve a lot over the course of the college basketball season.

A couple of things have started to surface among NBA scouts and executives, there seem to be three camps emerging around the top overall player – Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and international phenom Luka Dončić, seem to be the leading names mentioned most, with Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton making a strong push into the discussion. We can safely call this a three-horse race at this point.

The prevailing belief is that none of the three is far and away better than the other as a professional prospect, making it more likely than not that the top player selected will have a lot more to do with which team ultimately lands the pick, more so than the player themselves.

This class also seems to be brimming with promising athletic point guards, which unlike last year’s draft, could provide a lot of options for teams still trying to find that impact point guard.

There also looks to be 27 players in the projected top 100 that are 6’10 or bigger, eight of which project in the top 30. To put that into perspective, there were 11 players 6’10 or bigger drafted in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, and 17 total in the 60 2017 NBA Draft selections.

As we get into the 2018 calendar year, we’ll start to do deeper dives into the tiers of players and their possible NBA strengths and weakness.

So, with all of that in mind, here is the second 2018 first-round NBA Mock Draft.

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would not convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would not convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

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Mock Drafts

NBA AM: The First 2018 NBA Mock Draft

With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.

Steve Kyler

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The Thanksgiving 2018 NBA Mock Draft

With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.

So with that in mind here is my first Mock Draft of the 2018 Season, look for more of these are we march on (and hopefully you like the new Mock Draft table design.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this summer.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out our Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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