For so many reasons, this year’s NBA draft is the most anticipated since 2003, when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade all got taken in the top 5.
For starters, the Cleveland Cavaliers unexpectedly wound up with the #1 pick. In addition, Minnesota is looking to trade Kevin Love, so the Timberwolves could well wind up with two picks in the top 15.
But the biggest shake up has been the injury and surgery of Kansas C Joel Embiid, who was rumored to be a lock to go #1 to Cleveland but is now a big question mark.
The thing is, the Cavs still like him, and might trade down and get him anyway.
With this much uncertainty floating around even the top 3 picks, no wonder there is so much anticipation associated with this draft.
One thing remains constant, however. There is a first tier of 3-4 players, and then there is a second tier that runs top 12 to 15 or so, and then there is a deep roster that goes into the second round of talent. That makes this the deepest draft in years, and the kin of draft where you can well expect to see starters or even stars getting selected at pick 25 or lower.
This is the kind of draft that comes around only once in a while, and gives teams a real opportunity to change their fortunes if they are smart.
1. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: ANDREW WIGGINS (6’8”, SF, KANSAS)
Scouting Report: Freakishly athletic. Ideal length. Ready to play NBA level elite defense right away. Explosive finisher. Needs to develop consistency from the outside. Needs to become more than a straight line drive player.
Who knows what the Cavs will really do, although you have to say that their reputation for screwing up these high picks is well deserved. Word is they were set on Joel Embiid until his surgery. They might just take him anyway. Or they could trade down (rumor has Philadelphia offering the 3rd pick, Thad Young and one or two second rounders) and still get Embiid. Or they could go with Parker, who is more NBA ready. One thing seems certain: it will be hard to screw this one up. All of the options have their merits.
2. MILWAUKEE BUCKS: JABARI PARKER (6’8”, SF, DUKE)
Scouting Report: Most NBA ready player in the draft. Should score 20 ppg as a rookie. Can score from anywhere on the floor. Has an NBA ready body. Some question as to whether he’s a 3 or a 4 in the NBA. Needs to improve defensively.
How ironic that Parker will likely land in Milwaukee, the former home of Glenn Robinson. Like Robinson, Parker is a natural scorer who is a little too small for the 4 and not quite athletic enough for the 3 and who isn’t known for defense. The bottom line, however, is that Parker can flat out score the ball and is my pick to win rookie of the year. Parker also has the lowest bust factor of the “big 3” (or “big 4” depending how you rank them).
3. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: DANTE EXUM (6’6”, PG, AUSTRALIA)
Scouting Report: Elite size. Playmaker with good court vision. Able to play either guard spot. Creates his own shot. Needs to add strength. Inconsistent jump shooter. Bust factor is commensurate with a player coming right out of high school.
Word has it that Philadelphia loves Wiggins, but will take Exum if the Kansas freshman is gone. As a Sixer fan, I sure hope it doesn’t shake out this way, I’d rather see the Sixers take a chance on Embiid or trade up for Wiggins or trade down and take Julius Randle. Arrgh.
4. ORLANDO MAGIC: JOEL EMBIID (7’0”, C, KANSAS)
Scouting Report: Rare combination of scoring and shot blocking ability. Elite size and athleticism. Potential through the roof. Could really be the next Olajuwan. Injury history is downright terrifying. Could be the next Sam Bowie or Greg Oden. Easily the highest ceiling and lowest floor in the draft.
If you buy in to the idea that this is a top 4 draft (and not a top 3), then the team that gets most screwed by Embiid’s injury is Orlando, who would have been happy to see Exum fall to #4. Then again, if Embiid turns out to be fine, Orlando could be getting the steal of the millenium here. If Embiid’s injuries scare the Magic off, then they’re most likely to look at Marcus Smart or one of the power forwards here, although all of those would be a reach at #4.
5. UTAH JAZZ: JULIUS RANDLE (6’9”, PF, KENTUCKY)
Scouting Report: Elite strength in the post. Elite rebounder. Decent ball handler. Productive player. Injury history is real cause for concern. Lacks elite size. Game may not translate to the NBA.
A number of experts have Noah Vonleh rated ahead of Randle because of the former’s length, but that type of thinking is what caused teams to guess wrong on Zach Randolph and Kenneth Faried. Just look at what Randle did in college and tell me he won’t come into the NBA and do the exact same thing.
6. BOSTON CELTICS: NOAH VONLEH (6’10”, PF, INDIANA)
Scouting Report: Elite size and length. Terrific rebounder and shot blocker. Athletic player who can be a stretch 4. Lacks offensive polish. Needs to develop a back to the basket game.
Right here is where the trade winds will start blowing, hard. Boston is one of the strongest suitors for Kevin Love, and they are poised to move Rajon Rondo, although that may or may not happen on draft night. Either way, I will be surprised if the Celtics stand pat at #6 unless Dante Exum falls this far.
7. LOS ANGELES LAKERS: MARCUS SMART (6’4”, PG, OKLAHOMA STATE)
Scouting Report: Good strength and athleticism. Terrific defender. The kind of natural leader you want at the point guard position. Can defend either guard position. Needs to improve 3 point shooting. Has maturity questions. Lacks ideal quickness.
There are reports the Lakers want to move up and get one of the more elite prospects, or make a trade for Kevin Love, or basically do whatever desperate thing they can to try to win with Kobe before he retires. Sorry, Laker fans, that ship has sailed, and I think they know it, which is a good thing. It makes Marcus Smart a natural pick here – a guy they can build around for the future. As for Kobe, even healthy, he’s not the kind of player who can elevate a weak roster to greatness any more. He’ll finish as a Laker, which is what he should do. If he really wanted to try to win one more championship, he should go play for the Spurs.
8. SACRAMENTO KINGS: AARON GORDON (6’9”, PF, ARIZONA)
Scouting Report: Elite athleticism. NBA ready on defense. Explosive player. Hits the glass. Shooting needs work. May wind up being a “tweener.” Needs to improve post offense.
The Kings need a power forward and the good news for them is that there are several top 10 prospects and one or more of them will almost certainly be there when they pick. If Sacramento isn’t ready to commit to Isaiah Thomas, they might look at Marcus Smart if he drops to 8 or reach for Zach Levine to play point guard. Sacramento is also rumored to be in the market for Kevin Love.
9. CHARLOTTE HORNETS: NIK STAUSKAS (6’6”, SG, MICHIGAN)
Scouting Report: Pure shooter with NBA range. Plays well without the ball. Creates his own shot. Needs to add strength. Lacks ideal quickness. Will never be a great defender.
The Hornets want to add shooting, and they have several options. If they want more versatility of scoring, they can take Doug McDermott. If they want more athleticism, they can look at Rodney Hood. I have them taking Stauskas because he more ideally fits as a two guard and is probably the best shooter in the draft.
10. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: RODNEY HOOD (6’8”, SF, DUKE)
Scouting Report: Terrific length. Versatile inside-outside scorer. Can defend multiple positions. Needs to add strength and bulk. Lacks physicality. Needs to improve as a rebounder.
So much of what the Sixers do here depends on what they do with their first selection. I have them taking Exum, so this pick will be a 3 like Hood or McDermott or a 4 like Adreian Payne or Aaron Gordon. By contrast, if they land Wiggins early, look for them to target a shooting guard like James Young, Gary Harris or Zach Levine here. The Sixers front office likes versatility and defense, so players like Levine and Hood will definitely be on their radar.
11. DENVER NUGGETS: GARY HARRIS (6’4”, SG, MICHIGAN STATE)
Scouting Report: Terrific two-way player who competes on both ends of the floor. Can score from anywhere. Creates his own shot. Gets to the line and converts. Lacks ideal height and length. Lacks ideal athleticism. A bit of a “jack of all trades, master of none.”
On paper, the Nuggets want to address the shooting guard position, but they are one of many teams that could be looking to execute a roster shake up. Danillo Gallinari or even Kenneth Faried might be moveable, which in turn could change the Nuggets’ draft position or draft strategy. This is one more reason this year’s draft is so hard to predict.
12. ORLANDO MAGIC: ZACH LEVINE (6’5”, PG/SG, UCLA)
Scouting Report: Explosive athlete. Versatile scorer with range. Creates his own shot. Very high ceiling. Still a raw talent who may not be able to play the point in the NBA. High bust factor. Needs to show more effort on defense.
I didn’t start out intending for it to shake out this way, but I have Orlando getting two of the biggest boom or bust prospects in the draft in Embiid and Levine. Frankly, I’d much rather go that route that take two meh prospects. Can you image if both of these reached their full potential? Holy shit.
13. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: ADREIAN PAYNE (6’10”, PF, MICHIGAN STATE)
Scouting Report: True “stretch” 4 who has range out to the 3. Can score from the post or pull up. Uses his length on defense and on the boards. Needs to add strength. Lacks consistency. Can struggle defending away from the basket.
This pick makes perfect sense if Minnesota is moving Kevin Love, but if they somehow don’t then expect them to address some other need. Moreover, Payne, who could go as high as 10 to Philly, might drop all the way into the 20s if he doesn’t go by this point.
14. PHOENIX SUNS: DOUG MCDERMOTT (6’8”, SF, CREIGHTON)
Scouting Report: Can flat out score the ball. Has a variety of post moves. Good teammate. High basketball IQ. Good rebounder. Lacks athleticism. Will be a liability on defense.
The Suns were vastly improved this season but need to add scoring punch. McDermott surely adds that, and if he can somehow find a niche as a defender he could be one of the steals of the draft.
15. ATLANTA HAWKS: KYLE ANDERSON (6’9”, SF, UCLA)
Scouting Report: Point forward with great ball handling, court vision and passing skills. Creates mismatches offensively. Draws contact. Needs to add strength. Inconsistent jump shooter. Defense needs improvement.
Atlanta is clearly in the market for a 3, and although I like Kentucky’s James Young better, they are reportedly enamored with Anderson and the potential mismatches he creates on the floor.
16. CHICAGO BULLS: DARIO SARIC (6’10”, SF, CROATIA)
Scouting Report: Versatile scorer with range out to the 3. Will use his size and length to exploit smaller defenders. Can play both forward positions. Good passer. Lacks consistency from the outside. May not immediately come to the NBA.
The Bulls enter the draft looking for a potential future starter at the 3 and a backup point guard who can run the team for an extended period if (God forbid) Derrick Rose gets hurt yet again. Looking at the draft board tells them they will still have their pick of point guards when they pick again at 19, so they go after their wing player here. Keep in mind that the Bulls may yet land Carmelo Anthony, so stay tuned.
17. BOSTON CELTICS: JAMES YOUNG (6’6”, SG, KENTUCKY)
Scouting Report: Smooth shooter with range out to the 3. Plays well without the ball. Ideal size for the two. Needs to add strength. Does not create his own shot well. Lacks elite athleticism.
I don’t think the Celtics will mind at all if they walk away from this draft with Noah Vonleh and James Young, two excellent prospects. If that were to happen, they might just rethink trying to acquire Kevin Love or moving Rajon Rondo.
18. PHOENIX SUNS: JUSUF NURKIC (6’11”, C, BOSNIA)
Scouting Report: Big, physical presence who doesn’t shy away from contact. Converts at the line. Can play with his back to the basket. Lacks ideal athleticism. Commits too many fouls.
Making their second pick, the Suns could continue to address their scoring needs, or could look for big man depth.
19. CHICAGO BULLS: ELFRID PAYTON (6’3”, PG, LOUISIANA LAFAYETTE)
Scouting Report: Elite athleticism and quickness. Killer crossover. Tremendous first step. Quick hands to generate steals on defense. Great length. Raises game against better competition. Lacks 3 point range. Needs to improve foul shooting.
Payton is a small school wunderkind who some believe will be this year’s Damon Lilliard. Chicago is looking for a player who can step in and step it up if they are once again forced to compete without Derrick Rose. Payton is a perfect fit here, as he can learn under Rose but also has star potential as a point guard in his own right.
20. TORONTO RAPTORS: TYLER ENNIS (6’2”, PG, SYRACUSE)
Scouting Report: Instinctive player and natural leader. Has range out to 3. Great ball handler. Clutch scorer. Lacks ideal athleticism. Needs to add strength. Did not play man-to-man defense in college.
There was a time back when Syracuse couldn’t lose that Tyler Ennis was going to be a lottery pick. His stock dropped a bit since then, and Shabazz Napier’s rose, but Ennis is the better pro prospect.
21. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: P.J. HAIRSTON (6’5”, SG, NORTH CAROLINA)
Scouting Report: Terrific shooter with range out to the 3. Can defend multiple positions. Has an inside game. Good finisher. Not a great ball handler. Does not create his own shot.
Last year’s playoffs emphasized the Thunder’s need for offensive options beyond Durant and Westbrook, so whatever they do, expect the player they take to have some scoring ability.
22. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: T.J. WARREN (6’8”, SF, NORTH CAROLINA STATE)
Scouting Report: Prolific scorer who will take advantage of smaller defenders in the paint. Plays well without the ball. Hard worker on defense. Lacks range. May not have a natural position. Lacks ideal athleticism.
Memphis will be looking for a scorer on the wing. Warren fits the Grizzlies’ tough identity.
23. UTAH JAZZ: C.J. WILCOX (6’5”, SG, WASHINGTON)
Scouting Report: Deadly three point shooter. Good wingspan. Underrated as an athlete. Not great at creating his own shot. Limited upside.
Utah needs to add three point shooting. Since they already addressed the front court with their first pick, Wilcox fills the bill here.
24. CHARLOTTE HORNETS: JORDAN CLARKSON (6’5”, PG/SG, MISSOURI)
Scouting Report: Terrific size for an NBA combo guard. Range out to three. Great finisher. Needs to add strength. Inconsistent jump shot. Not a great passer.
Charlotte might be looking for size here, although they just took Cody Zeller last year. They also need point guard depth, and getting a player who can play both guard spots is ideal.
25. HOUSTON ROCKETS: SHABAZZ NAPIER (6’0”, PG, CONNECTICUT)
Scouting Report: Tremendous floor general. Has NBA 3-point range. Great playmaker and distributor. Good free throw shooting. Lacks ideal athleticism. Undersized defensively.
Houston really needs a take charge point guard to reign in James Harden. Maybe no one can do that, but Napier is the best candidate in the draft.
26. MIAMI HEAT: GLENN ROBINSON III (6’7”, SF, MICHIGAN)
Scouting Report: Explosive, athletic player. Finishes well at the rim. Terrific in transition. Good mid range game. Does not create his own shot. Inconsistent rebounder.
Is Miami going into this draft looking for bench depth or needing to rebuild because part or all of the big 3 took a walk? Kind of a big difference.
27. PHOENIX SUNS: JORDAN ADAMS (6’5”, SG, UCLA)
Scouting Report: Versatile scorer with range out to the 3. Plays well without the ball. Good length. Active on defense. Does not create his own shot. Lacks ideal athleticism.
The only team with three first rounders, I have the Suns bolstering the back court here.
28. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: MITCH MCGARY (6’10”, C, MICHIGAN)
Scouting Report: Big time effort player. NBA ready body. Plays a physical game. Good athleticism. Good passer. Not a great shot blocker. Lacks post moves. Jump shot is inconsistent.
The Clips need front court depth behind Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and just to be on the safe side, they take a white guy (j/k).
29. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: CLEANTHONY EARLY (6’7”, SF/PF, WICHITA STATE)
Scouting Report: Tough athletic player with an inside-outside game. Has three point range. Will post up smaller defenders. Gets to the line. Lacks a natural position. Needs to show more effort on defense.
The Thunder want to add frontcourt depth and Early is a versatile forward who sub in at either spot.
30. SAN ANTONIO SPURS: CLINT CAPELA (6’10”, PF, SWITZERLAND)
Scouting Report: Tremendous athleticism. Explosive finisher. Good rebounding and shot blocking skills. Needs to improve post defense. Very raw player. Lacks shooting range.
It’s scary to image what Greg Popovich could teach a player with these kind of physical abilities.