Explaining The Latest Mock Draft: Every week all the way up to the 2014 NBA Draft, we will drop what we have always called our “Consensus Mock Draft,” and while some poke fun at the idea that the four personalities powering the multi-opinion mock rarely agree and have a “consensus,” the idea is what is the “consensus of the draft” and what we often find is there really isn’t one.
Recently, more and more of you have asked for a deeper dive into mock drafts with explanations behind each pick. We have built some pretty elaborate draft tools to organize the process, and those tools were not built with detailed explanation in mind. We’ll work on that going forward, but for now I’ll break this out manually for you and give you at least my thoughts on the latest mock draft version.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Every week I introduce a new variable in my process. Until we really start to get a sense of which players a team is narrowing in on, I play the wrinkle game. I ask myself: What does the draft look like if this event happens? That changes from week to week.
If you wonder why I do it this way, it’s because this is how NBA teams do it. This is how teams prepare for every eventuality. Believing that one guy has to go number one and the next guy absolutely has to go number two is how you end up unprepared on draft night. Teams play through every draft scenario possible, so I try and do the same with my mock drafts.
With that in mind, here is this week’s mock:
#1 – Cleveland Cavaliers
Joel Embiid – C – 7’0″ – 240 – 20
This draft was filed before the news surfaced that Embiid may have had issues in his medical review with the Cavaliers. If the report of “numerous” issues is true, you can safely say Andrew Wiggins slides into the number one spot and Embiid takes a tumble. The problem with this lone report of issues is that none of the other media outlets in Cleveland or the top news breakers in the business are following suit on this story. So for the time being, until more is known on Embiid, the assumption is that he is healthy and his workout and medical review went as initially as reported. He is the top guy until medical reports to the contrary rule him off the board.
#2 – Milwaukee Bucks
Jabari Parker – SF/PF – 6’8″ – 241 – 19
There is a real chance that Dante Exum lands here. However, for the purposes of this week’s mock draft wrinkle, Exum slides and the Bucks take the safest bet on the board. A lot of this pick is going to come down to new ownership. There is a sense that they are willing to “dare to be great,” but at the same time they want to see progression in their new asset and adding Parker gives them a better “win-now” chance than taking Exum. Wiggins is very much in play here as well, but Parker seems to be a more natural fit with what the Bucks already have on the roster.
#3 – Philadelphia 76ers
Andrew Wiggins – SG/SF – 6’8″ – 197 – 19
If Embiid goes one and Parker goes two, then Wiggins lands at three. For months there have been reports that the 76ers really were high on Wiggins and that they would have taken him number one overall had they landed the pick. If Wiggins is there at three, he is Philly’s guy. The dark horse here is Exum, although this week’s mock assumes he tumbles, so down the board he goes.
#4 – Orlando Magic
Marcus Smart – PG – 6’3″ – 227 – 20
Smart has been in to the see the Magic twice already, and while some have read that to be they have him first on their board and some say they might, there is another school of thought and that is his first workout was not what both expected hence the second visit. The Magic are keeping things very close to the vest, so it’s unclear if Smart had a poor workout, or was unable to compete for some reason, which has been suggested. The Magic were linked to Smart last year and while Exum theoretically would still be on the board here, this week’s mock assumes he falls, and that means Smart is Orlando’s guy.
#5 – Utah Jazz
Noah Vonleh – PF/C – 6’9″ – 247 – 18
There are a few things floating around about Vonleh. The biggest being that Noah has opted to change his shooting mechanics; the net result is he is not shooting the ball as fluidly in workouts as he did at Indiana. It was a puzzling move for sure and it’s one he is clearly pushing back on in workouts. The Jazz seem poised to draft a four man if they stay in the fifth pick. There have been several indications from teams lower on the board that Utah might be trying to trade down on draft night. If the Jazz stay at five, Vonleh looks like their man. There have been some comments about Vonleh’s conditioning, but it does not seem to bother teams enough to warrant his stock taking a hit. Julius Randle is a real option here too, however with reports that he may have a foot issue that could require surgery at some point, Vonleh may be the safer, more opportune pick.
#6 – Boston Celtics
Aaron Gordon – PF – 6’9″ – 220 – 18
Last year there was a sense that the Celtics were going to come away from the draft with Kelly Olynyk, and while the C’s did not draft him, they did trade around and ultimately landed him. There is that same buzz going around about Aaron Gordon. The Celtics could take Randle here, but there is a real sense that the Celtics have locked in on Gordon, so for the purposes of this mock he lands in Boston at six.
#7 – LA Lakers
Dante Exum – PG/SG – 6’6″ – 196 – 18
The wrinkle in this week’s mock was that Exum falls out of the top tier. The truth is if Exum is still on the board at No. 5, there may be some trading taking place. However, if Exum is there for the Lakers at seven, he is their guy. Julius Randle could get some play here as well.
#8 – Sacramento Kings
Nik Stauskas – SG – 6’6″ – 207 – 20
The Kings are said to have three players very high on their board: Marcus Smart, Nik Stauskas and Elfrid Payton. Smart should be long gone by the time the Kings pick at eight, leaving Stauskas and Payton. This one really is a coin flip. There is a case for Stauskas as a perimeter threat and backup combo guard, but there is also a case that Payton could be the point guard of the future. The Kings are very much in the market to trade around, especially if they can nab additional assets. Eight might not have a lot of appeal before the draft, but if a key player starts to tumble, they could be in business. A dark horse here for the Kings is Randle, so that’s one worth noting.
#9 – Charlotte Hornets
Doug McDermott – SF – 6’8″ – 218 – 22
There is a belief that the Charlotte Hornets won’t let McDermott get past them. However, if Randle is still on the board that might be too much to pass on. The Hornets are open for business on the ninth pick and would be willing to move it for the right veteran player. However, this mock assumes the Hornets draft and McDermott seems to be their guy. If Stauskas is still around at nine he could be a Hornet as well.
#10 – Philadelphia 76ers
Julius Randle – PF – 6’9″ – 250 – 19
At some point risk gets outweighed by reward, and Randle becomes too attractive at 10 to pass up, especially for a Philly team that was patient with Nerlens Noel last year. If Randle is off the board, then Dario Saric, Jusuf Nurkic and possibly James Young become possibilities depending on what is on the board at 10.
#11 – Denver Nuggets
James Young – SG/SF – 6’7″ – 213 – 18
The Nuggets have a few options available to them. They are said to be very high on Stauskas and Gary Harris, but Young might present the most dynamic option for them at No. 11. There has been some talk about a package deal with the Bulls that could see Chicago picking at 11, so that’s one to watch.
#12 – Orlando Magic
Dario Saric – SF/PF – 6’10” – 223 – 20
Assuming the Magic draft a point guard at number four, there is a chance they go with big guy like an Adreian Payne or Nurkic, but there have also being some rumblings that the Magic might go with a “draft-and-stash” at 12, meaning Saric becomes an option here. Assuming the Magic do not trade out of the 12, which is a real possibility, Saric might be the best draft-and-stash option. There has also been some talk about Zach LaVine at 12, which might make sense if Arron Afflalo is moved this summer.
#13 – Minnesota Timberwolves
Adreian Payne – PF – 6’10” – 239 – 23
There have been three names strongly linked to the Timberwolves: Stauskas, Young and Payne. In this mock, two of the three are gone, so Payne is the guy. With the inevitability of the Wolves having to trade Kevin Love, Payne is ready to play at the four spot. He’s not Love, but he could hold his own from day one, hence his appeal.
#14 – Phoenix Suns
Rodney Hood – SF – 6’8″ – 208 – 21
The Suns need perimeter scoring and that’s what Hood will provide in the NBA. There are a couple of other options here but Hood looks to fit the team’s culture and the biggest need. The Suns hold multiple picks so there is a chance they grab Nurkic as a best talent “draft-and-stash” here and hope for Hood later.
#15 – Atlanta Hawks
T.J. Warren – SF/PF – 6’8″ – 220 – 20
The Hawks proved last year that are willing to be patient with draft picks so Nurkic, Kristaps Porzingis or even Zach LaVine become real options here. With that said, the best fit for the Hawks today might be T.J Warren. Warren is an elite level scorer and could contribute right away for a Hawks team that showed this season they are not that far away when healthy.
#16 – Chicago Bulls
Zach LaVine – SG – 6’6″ – 181 – 19
The Bulls could go a number of ways here including Payton or Tyler Ennis. However, if LaVine is here, and the Bulls have not traded up as some suggest they might, he might have too much upside and athleticism to pass.
#17 – Boston Celtics
Elfrid Payton – PG – 6’4″ – 185 – 20
There are likely four teams above the Celtics that could pluck Payton or trade up to grab him. It’s unlikely he is here, but if he is word is the Celtics would draft him at 17. The question becomes will he be there at 17? Porzingis is said to be a strong option as is Saric if he is there. If Nurkic is still on the board, this could be his landing spot too.
#18 – Phoenix Suns
Clint Capela – PF – 6’11” – 222 – 20
With their earlier pick, the Suns solved their top need with Hood; at this pick they start looking at draft-and-stash. That puts them on Nurkic, Porzingis and Capela. Capela seems like the choice, although it really is a coin toss.
#19 – Chicago Bulls
Tyler Ennis – PG – 6’2″ – 182 – 19
The Bulls are said to be very high on Ennis and view him as their answer at backup point guard and in some situations as part of a Ennis-Derrick Rose backcourt. If Ennis is here and the Bulls still hold the pick, this is likely where they go. With their earlier pick we had them with LaVine, so it could be interchangeable.
#20 – Toronto Raptors
K.J. McDaniels – SF – 6’6″ – 196 – 21
The Raptors are said to be very high on Payne, but this mock has him gone to the Wolves, which leaves them looking for a defensive-minded wing and the best of the bunch may be K.J. McDaniels. This could also be where Nurkic, Porzingis or Capela land if they are still on the board.
#21 – Oklahoma City Thunder
Kristaps Porzingis – PF – 7’0″ – 220 – 18
The Thunder are said to covet Porzingis and may trade up to ensure they get him. He has a $1.6 million dollar buyout on his deal, so going higher would help him land in the NBA next season. Expect the Thunder to look at picks a little higher in a package of their two lower-tier selections. If the Thunder miss on Porzingis, look for them to consider Nurkic and Jarnell Stokes at some point before it’s done.
#22 – Memphis Grizzlies
Gary Harris – SG – 6’4″ – 205 – 19
The Grizzlies want a perimeter scorer, and while this is really low for Harris there are some scouts that are low on him. They feel on draft night he could be primed to slip, especially if other guys start to slide down the board. There is a real chance Harris is gone to Chicago in the teens, but if he is here at 22, he is what Memphis is looking for. Cleanthony Early is an option here as is McDaniels.
#23 – Utah Jazz
Kyle Anderson – SF – 6’8″ – 230 – 20
The Jazz are not likely to make this pick when it’s said and done. However, assuming they are drafting here, Kyle Anderson offers an interesting package of size and ball handling. He is not viewed as the most athletic guy in the bunch but his high basketball IQ and the mismatches he could create at point forward make him an interesting wrinkle for the Jazz.
#24 – Charlotte Hornets
P.J. Hairston – SG – 6’5″ – 229 – 21
Assuming the Hornets are in this pick, this is likely where Hairston lands for a number of reasons. As a franchise, the Hornets have taken some players with character flags, and when it comes down to it Hairston might the most ready option left on the board. He can flat out score and if they are still in this pick, and Hairston is still there, that’s the perfect fit for both.
#25 – Houston Rockets
Jerami Grant – SF – 6’8″ – 214 – 20
The Rockets covet a long, smart perimeter player and Grant may be the best option left on the board. The Rockets are always tough to read because they work out more than 60 players every year, but Grant seems to fill the biggest need and may be the best talent left on the board. Early and Nurkic are also options with this pick.
#26 – Miami HEAT
Jarnell Stokes – PF – 6’8″ – 263 – 20
Stokes continues to float around the bottom of the first in several team’s draft scenarios. A lot about Stokes will be who is there when teams with the last five start picking. Stokes had a great work out with the Miami HEAT and it’s believed that he is fairly high on their board, however if guys like Nurkic, Early and Napier are still there, things may change.
#27 – Phoenix Suns
Jusuf Nurkic – C – 6’11” – 280 – 19
Nurkic may be one of the top-15 most talented options in the draft. Factor in that his contract buyout isn’t silly and that he could be in the NBA right away, he may be gone well before the Suns pick at 27. That said, there have been some questions about Nurkic off the court and that has some teams pausing on his potential. It’s highly likely that Nurkic is gone significantly higher, but if he is here at 27, he’ll be gone to Phoenix.
#28 – LA Clippers
Cleanthony Early – SF – 6’7″ – 209 – 23
There is a real chance the Clippers go point guard here, especially with guys like Shabazz Napier and Jordan Clarkson on the board. That said small forward was a problem for the Clippers all year and Early, if still on the board, might be the best talent and solution for the Clips, who can look for a backup point guard in trade or in free agency.
#29 – Oklahoma City Thunder
Shabazz Napier – PG – 6’1″ – 175 – 22
There are a lot of places the Thunder could go with the 29th selection, and the most likely is they bundle it with No. 21 to move up and the 29 belongs to someone else. However, with Reggie Jackson poised to join the starting line up at point guard next season, the Thunder will need some spark from the bench and Napier could be that guy. There are a few other options to watch, namely Walter Tavares, Stokes and Spencer Dinwiddie.
#30 – San Antonio Spurs
Walter Tavares – C – 7’3″ – 265 – 22
The Spurs are likely playing the best future upside card here and that’s where Tavares, Artem Klimenko and even Vasilije Micic get some consideration. Of the bunch Tavares at a legit 7’3 might present the most potential to be a solid NBA player. The Spurs continue to look a year or two ahead when drafting toward the bottom and with last year’s first round pick Livio Jean-Charles likely joining the team this year, there is no urgency on this pick playing right away.
There will be two more Consensus Mock Drafts before the actual NBA Draft on Thursday, June 26. They will drop on Wednesday the 18th and a final one on Wednesday the 25th. Basketball Insiders will publish a final Mock Draft on Draft Day in this format, featuring all 60 picks and the logic behind each selection.
Until then, if you want to know everything you can know about the 2014 NBA Draft – make sure to get your copy of the 2014 Basketball Insiders Draft Magazine – it’s available for both Android and Apple mobile devices and from a web-platform for virtual any device you have.
Medical And Its Role In The Draft: Over the last week there have been two high profile stories about medical issues and draft picks. The easy response is to say ‘there is too much talent, you can’t pass’, but the truth is botching a draft pick or having a pick fail out for medical reasons is an avoidable mistake, one teams take seriously.
There was a report out of Cleveland this week suggesting that Kansas big man Joel Embiid did not do well in his medical exam with the Cavaliers and that he had a “number of physical ailments.”
This report has been in conflict with other reports suggesting Embiid’s workout and medical went fine and there were no issues.
So which report is true? Honestly we won’t likely know until after the draft, as the Cavs likely signed confidentiality agreements in exchange for getting Embiid into their doctors.
Kentucky big man Julius Randle is undergoing something similar. Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Randle would likely need foot surgery to remove a screw inserted in his foot after a bone break in high school. Randle has since denied this story and has gone on the offensive to say his foot is fine.
So what are we to believe? Here is how it plays out:
Most players, Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker excluded, go through intense medical review at the annual NBA Draft Combine. This includes MRI’s, full blood panels and heart and health testing. These results are then made available to all 30 NBA teams, who have their medical staffs review and “flag” anything notable or of concern.
These “flagged” players then get discussed among the training staff and the decision makers. The idea behind it is to understand what’s going on with the player. How it could manifest itself if drafted, and whether or not the medical and training staff believe it could impact a player’s career, both in the short-term and in the long-term.
In 2005, many outsiders marveled that current Clipper Danny Granger was still on the draft board into the teens, ultimately getting drafted at 17 by the Indiana Pacers. What was not really talked about was that Gragner was flagged with a knee issue and many teams knew that he would have problems with that knee eventually. Fast forward to 2014, and Granger has been plagued by knee problems for most of his career.
The Pacers medical and training staff believed they could manage Granger’s knee and that at 17 there was too much upside to pass on and they drafted him.
Having an injury, or being red flagged does not kill a player’s chance to be drafted, although there have been some players whose draft staff took a massive blow after medical issues surfaced in the draft process.
The question always comes down to risk versus reward. Can a team accurately predict the injury probability, can the team’s doctors and training staff manage the problem effectively and is there a better option on the board without issues? Those are the questions the Cavaliers are likely asking themselves with regards to Embiid, and many teams are likely asking about Randle.
Randle’s issue is more procedural in nature, so it’s not as alarming as some long-term or structural issues. However, there is risk anytime a player needs surgery. Grant Hill thought he was having a routine procedure in 2000, and he was never the same after playing the next 12 seasons in and out due to issues.
In Embiid’s case it’s a little trickier. During the NCAA Tournament, Embiid was diagnosed with what’s believed to be Spondylolysis, or a stress fracture in the back. These are very common in athletes and usually clear up with rest and rehab. That’s the good news. The bad news is there is another form of this issue called Spondylolisthesis, which is a defect in the back in which lumbar vertebra “shift” and press against nerves. This one is scary for teams, because it usually requires spinal fusions, which could be career threatening.
Because of the confidential nature of medical information, it’s unlikely anyone is ever going to say specifically what they have seen in Embiid’s back, but that issue alone is very scary despite his immense talent and upside, especially for the Cavaliers drafting number one overall. The best modern example would be the Portland Trail Blazers knowing that Greg Oden was going to have the knee issues that have derailed his career, and drafted him anyway, passing on Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant.
The Cavs find themselves in the same situation. There are potentially three all-NBA type talents available to them with the top pick, and if Embiid genuinely has long-term flags around his health, the Cavs have to look at players that may not have as much risk.
The other thing to know about medical issues in the draft process is that most teams do not see things the same way. One team’s medical staff may see an issue and say ‘this is a big problem’ another teams staff may say ‘it is not that big of a deal’. The Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers have a long history of drafting players other teams may have flagged, simply because their medical and training staffs believe they can rehab an injury and those franchises take more risks.
Equally teams that are looking down the road may be more open to players with risks than teams that need their draft pick to produce right away. The Philadelphia 76ers traded for injured big man Nerlens Noel, despite being less than six months post-op on an ACL surgery. Wisely, Noel had his surgery done by Dr. James Andrews, one of the leading knee and ligament surgeons in the country, and made him openly available to teams with issues or questions about Noel’s knee.
The big red flag with Embiid is that his camp has not done that with his back, adding more intrigue and questions to the process. It is believed Embiid saw noted spinal surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins while at Kansas, however it’s unclear if Embiid’s camp is allowing concerned teams to talk with him about Embiid’s prognosis going forward.
While Embiid and Randle are the two names in this draft class being talked about the most, historically there are usually a dozen or more players flagged in some capacity. Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was flagged with an elbow issue in 2009, which saw his draft stock tumble into to 17, despite some teams in the top six expressing interest in drafting him.
The medical process plays a big role in who gets drafted and where, not because teams believe a player will fail; it’s usually because there is a similar option talent wise on the board that does not have issues. There are no certainties or guarantees in this process either and it is far from an exact measure. But as teams try and decide where to spend their picks, the medical information weighs into it in a significant way, not just in the short-term of can he compete in camp, but what are his potential long-term issues?
No two teams see the draft the same way. It is an eye of the beholder process. Some teams are willing to take more risks than others and some teams may view a problem more seriously than another. There is always a point in which the risk associated gets outweighed by the reward.
Both Embiid and Randle will be drafted, that’s an almost certainty. The question becomes how much will injuries weigh down their draft stock, and that’s really a team by team consideration.
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