Wiggins, Embiid, Parker lead post-lottery Mock Draft
A few thoughts after Tuesday's draft lottery ...
• Imagine the outcry about fixes and frozen envelopes if a big-market team had Cleveland's recent run of lottery success. In securing the No. 1 pick for the third time in four years, the Cavaliers have a chance to draft a LeBron James-like talent ... while making the roster even more appealing for James himself this summerd, when the four-time MVP can become a free agent. Yeah, that narrative isn't going anywhere.
• It appears general manager John Hammond will be making Milwaukee's pick. New owner Wesley Edens told me at the lottery that he expects Hammond to be in his current position on draft night. It wasn't a ringing endorsement, but I'm getting the sense that the current management -- including coach Larry Drew -- will be given another year to improve the rebuilding Bucks.
• Expect trade speculation about Timberwolves All-Star power forward Kevin Love's future to ramp up even more over the next few weeks, with the Lakers, Celtics and Warriors the strongest suitors. Boston president Danny Ainge has shown a willingness to trade a high draft pick before, and if 31-year-old Ray Allen was worth the fifth pick (Jeff Green) in 2007, the 25-year-old Love is worth No. 6 this year and much more.
With the order set for the June 26 draft, here's our early Mock Draft for the first round:
1. Cavaliers -- Andrew Wiggins, F/G, Kansas freshman, 6-foot-8, 200 pounds
The Cavaliers will be tempted to take Wiggins' college teammate Joel Embiid because of his defensive potential at center. But the possibility of pairing Wiggins, an electrifying athlete who has a chance to be an impact player at both ends of the floor, with the first pick in the 2011 draft, point guard Kyrie Irving, is too good to pass up.
2. Bucks -- Joel Embiid, C, Kansas freshman, 7-0, 250
If Wiggins is on the board, this becomes a tough decision. But the Bucks need another big man and an Embiid-Larry Sanders frontcourt has tremendous defensive promise. The question Milwaukee (and others) must answer: How bad is Embiid's back?
3. 76ers -- Jabari Parker, F, Duke freshman, 6-8, 241
Parker is widely viewed as one of the draft's most NBA-ready players. It's still unclear what forward position Parker can defend, but he can score at either for a Sixers team that finished last in points per possession. This seems like a no-brainer.
4. Magic -- Dante Exum, G, Australia (18 years old), 6-6, 196
Is Exum a point guard? He thinks he is; others are not so sure. If the Magic believe it, don't expect them to leave Exum on the board. And even if they don't, the 6-6 Exum has the size to play two guard and possesses a tantalizing offensive skill set. A wild card here: Marcus Smart. The Magic loved Smart last year before he surprisingly returned to Oklahoma State for his sophomore year.
5. Jazz -- Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona freshman, 6-9, 220
Julius Randle is the best player on the board, but the Jazz are set at power forward after signing Derrick Favors to a four-year, $48 contract extension last October. Gordon is a tweener with a mediocre jump shot, but he is a superior athlete and a strong defender and rebounder. With one of the league's youngest cores, Utah can be patient while Gordon develops.
6. Celtics -- Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State sophomore, 6-3, 227
As noted above, the last time the Celtics had a top-10 pick they traded it. This selection could be trade bait, too, especially with Love reportedly willing to sign an extension with Boston. If the Celtics keep the pick, Smart is appealing as a physical point guard who can complement Rajon Rondo now and potentially replace him down the road.
7. Lakers -- Julius Randle, F, Kentucky freshman, 6-9, 250
With big man Pau Gasol likely out the door, the Lakers would be thrilled if Randle fell into their laps. Randle is a versatile offensive power forward whose skill set has been likened to Zach Randolph's. What could cause him to slip? Concern over his ability to defend NBA fours consistently.
8. Kings -- Dario Saric, F, Croatia (20 years old), 6-10, 223
If Saric had entered the draft last year, he likely would have been a lottery pick. He improved his stock this year by leading the Adriatic League in scoring (16.7 points) and rebounding (9.7) and adding 3.2 assists for Cibona in Zagreb, with whom he won league MVP and Finals MVP honors. Saric is a point-forward type with terrific passing and playmaking skills.
9. Hornets (via Pistons) -- Noah Vonleh, F, Indiana freshman, 6-10, 247
Vonleh is projected to be a solid rebounder and defender, but he has also shown flashes of an untapped offensive game. Consider: Last season Vonleh made 48.5 percent (16-of-33) from three-point range. He'd benefit from working with excellent big man tutors in Charlotte coach Steve Clifford and assistant Patrick Ewing.
10. 76ers (via Pelicans) -- Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia (19 years old), 6-11, 280
The burly, high-energy center could play alongside the more slender Nerlens Noel, the sixth pick in the 2013 draft, who missed the season while recovering from ACL surgery. Nurkic is young and raw, having started playing basketball in 2009, but his rapid development has impressed many NBA executives. He's drawn comparisons to the Timberwolves' Nikola Pekovic, who has emerged as a productive starting center (17.5 points, 8.7 rebounds this season).
11. Nuggets -- Gary Harris, G, Michigan State sophomore, 6-5, 205
The shooting guard raised a few eyebrows by measuring 6-foot-2½ without shoes at the combine (he measured 6-4½ with shoes). And his three-point shooting dipped to 35.2 percent from 41.1 percent as a freshman. Still, Harris ranks as one of the best defenders in the draft, and he has the potential to build a solid all-around game.
12. Magic (via Knicks) -- Doug McDermott, F, Creighton senior, 6-8, 218
McDermott should instantly upgrade a team that ranked 29th in offensive efficiency and 21st in both three-point percentage and made threes. If McDermott develops into even an average defender -- it's a big if -- his offensive talent could make him a quality starter in any lineup.
13. Timberwolves -- Adreian Payne, F, Michigan State senior, 6-10, 239
The knock on Payne: He's (gasp) 23 and doesn't have as high a ceiling as some of the draft's younger players. Still, Payne is a prototypical stretch four who makes threes (42.3 percent last season), rebounds (7.3) and runs the floor. He might have been even better last season had he not played through an undiagnosed case of mononucleosis.
14. Suns -- Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan sophomore, 6-7, 207
The Suns had success this season playing a small backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. Stauskas gives them more size at the two and another shooter (44.2 percent from three-point range) to space the floor and contribute to an up-tempo attack.
15. Hawks -- James Young, G, Kentucky freshman, 6-7, 213
Atlanta would love to get a big man to join Al Horford and Paul Millsap, but taking any of the ones available here would be a reach. Young is streaky, and he shot only 34.9 percent from beyond the arc, but scouts love his potential. Young has good size and could grow into an ideal backcourt partner for point guard Jeff Teague.
16. Bulls (via Hornets) -- Tyler Ennis, G, Syracuse freshman, 6-3, 182
Derrick Rose's injury history makes fortifying the point guard position a priority. Ennis, 19, won't wow with his physical tools, but he is a heady playmaker who made big shots last season and displayed composure that belied his age.
17. Boston Celtics (via Nets) -- T.J. Warren, F, NC State sophomore, 6-8, 220
The search for Paul Pierce's replacement at small forward continues. Warren has a little Pierce in him -- he owns a nice mid-range game, rebounds well for his position and attacks the angles relentlessly -- though he shot only 26.7 on threes. With Jeff Green on the trade block and Gerald Wallace not part of the Celtics' long-term future, Warren fills a need.
18. Suns (via Wizards) -- Kyle Anderson, G, UCLA sophomore, 6-9, 230
Anderson blossomed as a point guard last season, but his defensive deficiencies make playing the position in the NBA problematic. Ideally, Anderson works alongside a smaller scoring guard, allowing him to run an offense while defending twos. With three first-round picks, the Suns could look for an international player to stash overseas, too.
19. Bulls -- P.J. Hairston, G, D-League's Texas Legends (21 years old), 6-5, 229
After leaving the North Carolina program last December following an NCAA investigation into his use of rental cars, Hairston averaged 21.8 points in the D-League. Hairston has prototypical size for a shooting guard and his scoring and three-point shooting (35.8 percent with the Legends) would boost a Bulls lineup that struggled offensively without Rose.
20. Raptors -- Zach LaVine, G, UCLA freshman, 6-6, 181
With Kyle Lowry's status uncertain as he enters free agency, the Raptors snap up a potential replacement. LaVine insists that he is a point guard, and he has the speed and athleticism to play the position. But is he a playmaker? Kyle Anderson handled those responsibilities for the Bruins. Can he become a consistent shooter? LaVine was streaky last season, finishing at 44.1 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from beyond the arc, and by the end of the year his playing time had diminished considerably (he averaged 24.4 minutes for the season).
21. Thunder (via Mavs, Rockets and Lakers) -- Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan sophomore, 6-10, 250
McGary, who skipped the combine while rehabilitating a back injury that ended his season in mid-December, is a wild card. At his best, McGary is a high-energy player who rebounds, runs the floor and finishes at the rim. He's also an excellent screener with good pick-and-roll potential, two strengths that will play well in Oklahoma City. With center Kendrick Perkins an amnesty candidate, the Thunder could use (cheap) frontcourt help.
22. Grizzlies -- Rodney Hood, G/F, Duke sophomore, 6-9, 208
Hood is a pure scorer who shot 42 percent from three-point range last season, a stroke he showcased at the combine. Hood is limited defensively and will need to add more muscle to match up with stronger small forwards. But he can fill it up.
23. Jazz (via Warriors) -- Bogdan Bogdanovic, G, Serbia (21 years old), 6-6, 200
Opinions about Bogdanovic vary, with some scouts questioning whether the Partizan Belgrade shooting guard has the physical tools to thrive in the NBA. Still, Bogdanovic is a solid perimeter shooter, he can attack the basket and he plays unselfishly.
24. Hornets (via Trail Blazers) -- K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson junior, 6-6, 196
The Hornets are invested in small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the second pick in the 2012 draft. If the small forward's perimeter shooting doesn't improve, though, his future would be murky. McDaniels is a spectacular athlete with a wingspan (6-foot-11¼) that will make him a feared weak-side shot blocker. McDaniels was one of the most improved players in college basketball last season, when he averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks.
25. Rockets -- Clint Capela, F, Switzerland (20 years old), 6-11, 222
The Rockets' search for help at power forward continues with Capela, a long, mobile big man with a high defensive ceiling. Capela isn't a stretch four, but he is a premier athlete who loves to play in transition with Elan Chalon in France. Plus, with Houston's desire to keep its books clear for another major offseason move, the team could persuade Capela to stay overseas for another season.
26. Heat -- Shabazz Napier, G, UConn senior, 6-1, 175
With Mario Chalmers set to hit free agency, the Heat could use some insurance at point guard. Napier showed great poise in big games for UConn. He made 40.5 percent of his threes last season and is a strong defender, the two main skills that Miami asks of its point guards.
27. Suns (via Pacers) -- Kristaps Porzingis, F, Latvia (18 years old), 6-11, 220
The buzz around the league is that the Suns are willing to part with this pick for a future first-rounder. Porzingis is a tremendous athlete with three-point range who plays for CB Sevilla in Spain (6.5 points in 14.3 minutes). He will need to bulk up, but he could turn into a steal for a Phoenix team that needs frontcourt help.
28. Clippers -- Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse sophomore, 6-8, 214
The Clippers like to play up-tempo, and Grant is a superior athlete who runs the floor as well as anyone at small forward. He will need to polish his perimeter game after shooting only 6-of-20 from beyond the arc in two seasons at Syracuse, but his defense and athleticism are NBA-ready.
29. Thunder -- Elfrid Payton, G, Louisiana-Lafayette junior, 6-4, 185
The Thunder like to think two steps ahead, and the possibility of losing guard Reggie Jackson in free agency after next season could drive them toward drafting a possible replacement. Payton is the latest mid-major guard to emerge as a potential first-round pick. He was the only Division I player to average 19 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals, and won the Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year award.
30. Spurs -- C.J. Wilcox, G, Washington senior, 6-5, 201
Wilcox, who made 39.1 percent from three-point range last season, fits a team that values floor spacing and perimeter shooting so much. Though not a dynamic scorer, Wilcox is an excellent catch-and-shoot player who showed signs of a decent pick-and-roll game.
This story has been updated to include Rodney Hood, who should have been part of the original Mock Draft.