NBA Mock Draft 2.0: Embiid tops new-look lottery
It's workout season in the NBA, a time when prospective draft picks rack up frequent flier miles traversing the country hoping to make a good impression. These workouts are especially important to teams drafting high, as the potential picks don't have a big body of work. Of the players in the top 10 of SI.com's Mock Draft, six are freshman, two are sophomores and two never played college ball.
It's not easy making accurate assessments on players when studying one day of drills in an empty gym. But with most of the highly rated picks still teenagers, it's often one of the few strong pieces of evidence league executives have to go on.
Here is SI.com's Mock Draft 2.0, which features a new name at the top:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers -- Joel Embiid, C, Kansas freshman, 7-foot-0, 250 pounds
Cleveland isn't tipping its hand, but league sources continue to believe that the decision is down to Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. Embiid alleviated some concerns about his back during a workout for teams last month, when executives in attendance came away impressed with his superior athleticism and two-way potential. New Cavs general manager David Griffin has the luxury of being able to draft a player who needs time to develop like the 20-year-old Embiid, who started playing at age 16.
2. Milwaukee Bucks -- Andrew Wiggins, F/G, Kansas freshman, 6-8, 200
There is conflicting information here, with sources indicating that the Bucks like both Wiggins and Jabari Parker -- if Embiid is off the board. The guess here is that they settle on Wiggins, whose ceiling, many executives believe, is slightly higher than Parker's. The rebuilding Bucks need a franchise player, and Wiggins has that potential.
3. Philadelphia 76ers -- Jabari Parker, F, Duke freshman, 6-8, 241
The Sixers covet Wiggins, according to a source, but will take Parker, a prolific scoring forward who will immediately upgrade one of the NBA's worst offenses. Teams that have seen the former Blue Devils standout haven't been wowed by his conditioning — several executives remarked that while he wasn't overweight, his physique lacked definition -- but Parker proved at Duke that he has NBA-level scoring ability.
4. Orlando Magic -- Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State sophomore, 6-3, 227
Smart will have a second workout with the Magic this week, a strong signal of Orlando's interest. The Magic coveted him last year before he decided to return to school, and there is a growing belief among league executives that Smart is the best point guard prospect in the draft. Scouts don't love his shooting form, but his size and aggressive style make him an appealing prospect.
5. Utah Jazz -- Dante Exum, G, Australia (18 years old), 6-6, 196
This is a tough spot for Utah. Parker would be a natural fit here, but it's highly unlikely he slips this far. Exum is a great consolation prize, though. Several scouts say Exum's upside is as big as Embiid's or Wiggins'. Exum thinks he's a point guard, but two executives who have seen him play believe his future is at the two. An Exum-Trey Burke backcourt could become a dynamic duo.
6. Boston Celtics -- Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona freshman, 6-9, 220
Several league sources believe that Celtics GM Danny Ainge is locked in on Gordon. While Gordon's shooting is a concern, he is a strong rebounder and shot blocker who can defend either forward spot and has been compared to Shawn Marion. A trade is possible here, too. Ainge is always on the lookout for a make a blockbuster deal, and with Boston's assets he is more than equipped to do so.
7. Los Angeles Lakers -- Julius Randle, F, Kentucky freshman, 6-9, 250
Pack your bags, Pau Gasol. Randle is a versatile scorer who should be able to contribute immediately. NBA executives continue to question his defense and short wingspan, but there is little doubt that Randle will become a bona fide frontcourt scorer.
8. Sacramento Kings -- Noah Vonleh, F, Indiana freshman, 6-10, 247
An NBA source confirmed a Yahoo! Sports report that the Kings are willing to part with this pick in a package for Kevin Love -- without the All-Star power forward agreeing to opt into the final year of his contract. Vonleh worked out for the Kings this week. The 18-year-old is a project, but he has great physical tools and shot 48.5 percent from three-point range (16-of-33) at Indiana. For a team that has rotated big men alongside DeMarcus Cousins, Vonleh could be a nice fit.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Pistons) -- Dario Saric, F, Croatia (20 years old), 6-10, 223
The Hornets have the poor-shooting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at small forward and Josh McRoberts at power forward. There is a need for Saric, a rapidly developing point forward who dominated the Adriatic League last season. Saric can create offense off the dribble and excels in the open floor.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via Pelicans) -- Gary Harris, G, Michigan State sophomore, 6-5, 205
Nik Stauskas is a better offensive option, but Harris, a strong defender, has better two-way potential. Harris struggled with shoulder and ankle injuries at Michigan State, and a dip in his three-point shooting last season (from 41.1 percent as a freshman to 35.5 percent as a sophomore) raised some eyebrows. Still, when healthy, Harris flashed impressive potential and would solidify a strong young backcourt with reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. [video:]
11. Denver Nuggets -- Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan sophomore, 6-7, 207
The Nuggets need a strong starting two guard and Stauskas has big-time scoring potential. One of the draft's best shooters, Stauskas has good size for the position and showed significant improvement last season in other areas of his game. His defense is an issue because of his average length and quickness, but the offensive skills are enough for him to go in the lottery.
12. Orlando Magic -- Doug McDermott, F, Creighton senior, 6-8, 218
Speaking of offense ... McDermott could go higher -- the Hornets need a scoring forward -- but it's hard to see him slipping past Orlando, which lacks viable perimeter options. Teams continue to stress about his position -- McDermott told SI.com that every team he interviewed with at the combine asked him what position he could defend -- but he is a gifted scorer who is a threat from everywhere on the floor.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves -- Adreian Payne, F, Michigan State senior, 6-10, 239
Love wants out, and Minnesota isn't going to risk letting him walk for nothing in return. Moving Love will eventually open up a hole at power forward. At 23, Payne is as ready as any player in the draft to step in and make an immediate impact. 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. Phoenix Suns -- Rodney Hood, G/F, Duke sophomore, 6-9, 208
The Suns could really use a frontcourt scorer here, but taking any of the ones available would be a stretch. Hood is a versatile scorer who can stretch the floor and go to the basket. Phoenix likes to play up-tempo basketball under coach Jeff Hornacek, and Hood seems like an ideal fit to play off attacking guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.
15. Atlanta Hawks -- Zach LaVine, G, UCLA freshman, 6-6, 181
No player has more athletic potential in the 2014 draft than LaVine. Can he harness it? That remains to be seen. LaVine was the definition of streaky last year, shooting at a blistering clip in the first month of the season before tailing off badly at the end of it. LaVine is determined to become a point guard, though several interested teams see him as a two. It's similar to how some teams felt about another uber-athletic UCLA guard: Russell Westbrook.
16. Chicago Bulls -- P.J. Hairston, G, D-League's Texas Legends (21 years old), 6-5, 229
The Bulls badly need a scorer, and Hairston averaged 21.8 points in 26 games in the D-League. Scouts are divided on the significance of D-League numbers, though, and Hairston's history -- he left North Carolina early last season after an NCAA investigation into improper use of rental cars -- is a concern. But imagine what Tom Thibodeau could do with a player with Hairston's size and skills if he is willing to buy in.
17. Boston Celtics -- Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia (19 years old), 6-11, 280
The Celtics need a center -- the 6-9 Jared Sullinger is better suited for power forward -- and Nurkic is the best on the board. Nurkic is a physical player with soft hands and a knack for finishing around the basket. He's raw, having started playing in 2009, but Boston ownership is willing to rebuild slowly. Nurkic, who has been compared to Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic, has a huge upside.
18. Phoenix Suns -- James Young, G, Kentucky freshman, 6-7, 213
With its second of three first-round picks, the Suns can continue to load up on perimeter threats with Young. He was a streaky shooter at Kentucky last season, sinking only 34.9 percent from beyond the arc, but he has great size and athleticism at shooting guard. Bledsoe is 6-1 and Dragic is 6-3, so Young would offer an interesting contrast in Phoenix's backcourt. The Suns could look for a player to stash overseas here, too.
19. Chicago Bulls -- T.J. Warren, F, NC State sophomore, 6-8, 220
Warren is a pure scorer. He is something of a throwback, with most of his production coming from well-angled drives and a polished mid-range game. He also rebounds well for his position. Warren isn't much of a three-point shooter (26.7 percent last season), but Bulls fans might remember another small forward who developed that shaky part of his game with the team: Luol Deng. Warren doesn't have Deng's defensive instincts, but he has enormous offensive potential.
20. Toronto Raptors -- Tyler Ennis, G, Syracuse freshman, 6-3, 182
Could Ennis really fall this far? It's possible. While Ennis is a steady playmaker and effective pick-and-roll player, there are questions about his athleticism and his ability to make plays off the dribble against NBA defenders. The Raptors would eagerly snag the Toronto-born Ennis here to either back up pending free agent Kyle Lowry or be in the mix to replace him.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder -- Elfrid Payton, G, Louisiana-Lafayette junior, 6-4, 185
With Derek Fisher likely gone, Oklahoma City has an opening for another guard in the rotation. Payton made only 30 three-pointers in three seasons with the Ragin' Cajuns, but he's an effective slashing scorer and a strong defender. The forward-thinking Thunder are also aware of what guard Reggie Jackson could cost when he becomes a restricted free agent after next season.
22. Memphis Grizzlies -- K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson junior, 6-6, 196
The Grizzlies -- who are being run by interim boss Chris Wallace -- have a need at small forward, where Tayshaun Prince is entering the last year of his contract. McDaniels is a superior athlete and shot blocker and was one of the most improved players in college basketball last season, averaging 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks.
23. Utah Jazz -- Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State, 6-7, 209
Early will have to adjust to life as a full-time small forward, but NBA executives liked what they saw from him at the combine. He is a solid shooter and rebounder who plays well in transition. An oft-asked question about Early: Is he quick enough to defend threes? If he is, he could be a steal.
24. Charlotte Hornets -- Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland (20 years old), 6-11, 222
Hornets coach Steve Clifford loves defenders, and the long, athletic Capela has huge potential. Capela is a very good athlete whom international scouts say improved significantly as a defender last season with Elan Chalon in France. Capela may be a draft-and-stash candidate, but don't be surprised if a strong player development coach like Clifford wants to get his hands on him early.
25. Houston Rockets -- Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia (18 years old), 7-0, 220
The Rockets' search for a stretch four continues. Porzingis is raw and didn't put up eye-popping numbers in Spain last season, but he has a smooth shooting stroke -- which any team with Dwight Howard will love -- and excels in transition. It could be years before Porzingis is NBA-ready, but he has the potential to develop into a dynamic offensive player.
26. Miami Heat -- Shabazz Napier, G, UConn senior, 6-1, 175
Napier is a smart pick here. 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 playmakers.
27. Phoenix Suns -- Kyle Anderson, G, UCLA sophomore, 6-9, 230
Rival executives say Phoenix is shopping this pick, looking for a future first-rounder in return. 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. The Suns, with Bledsoe and Dragic, are a perfect fit.
28. Los Angeles Clippers -- Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse sophomore, 6-8, 214
The Clippers like to play up-tempo, and Grant is an elite 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-quality.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder -- Jordan Adams, SG, sophomore, UCLA, 6-4, 209
There's a lot to like about Adams. He's a diverse scorer who can post up and score off screens, two skills that would be valuable to Oklahoma City, which is light at shooting guard. Adams isn't particularly explosive and he was inconsistent defensively last season, but for a team looking for a complement to Westbrook and Kevin Durant, Adams could be a good fit.
30. San Antonio Spurs -- Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan, 6-10, 250
McGary showcased lottery talent in the 2012-13 season, particularly during a strong NCAA tournament showing. A back injury wiped out most of last season, but McGary elected to go pro rather than face a possible season-long suspension for what he said was a positive marijuana test. 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. He's a low-risk, high-reward pick for a team that needs young frontcourt help.