NBA Mock Draft 3.0: To Embiid or not to Embiid?
With just over a week to go until the draft, there are rumblings around the league that draft night could feature a flurry of activity. Here are a few notes leading in:
• A wave of disappointment rippled through NBA front offices when Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis pulled out of the draft last week. Dallas and Oklahoma City were both hot on him, and there was an outside chance he could have been picked in the lottery. One NBA executive said he believes Porzingis could be a top-five pick next season.
• Chicago is aggressively trying to move its two first-round picks, according to rival executives. The Bulls are believed to be looking for either a veteran scorer or the chance to move up in the draft to select a young wing player with scoring potential.
• The fascination with Noah Vonleh continues. Teams are falling in love with his physical tools and shooting potential. He will get strong consideration anywhere from 4 to 8. An aside: Vonleh is the centerpiece of a draft feature in this week's Sports Illustrated.
• Picks 25-30 can be had for the right price. New York, Brooklyn and New Orleans are calling around looking to get into the first round. Don't be surprised if one or more of those teams wind up trading for one of those picks.
Onto SI.com's Mock Draft 3.0...
1. Cleveland Cavaliers -- Joel Embiid, C, Kansas freshman, 7-foot-0, 250 pounds
A source familiar with the Cavaliers thinking says the Cavaliers are leaning strongly toward Embiid, who has impressed in private workouts. Embiid's back has not been an issue, but league sources say teams are still evaluating it to determine the long-term risk. Still, Embiid's potential as a dominant two-way player appears to be too good for the Cavs to pass up.
2. Milwaukee Bucks -- Andrew Wiggins, G/F, Kansas freshman, 6-8, 200
Could the Bucks really pass up Wiggins here? Maybe. The Bucks have had long looks at all the top prospects -- including Dante Exum, who worked out for Milwaukee over the weekend -- and seem impressed by each of them. Parker is viewed as the most NBA-ready but most scouts still see Wiggins as having the highest ceiling. Also, Wiggins can play two-guard, a plus for the Bucks, who already have Giannis Antetokounmpo at the three. There is no consensus on this pick. For now, expect them to lean towards Wiggins.
3. Philadelphia 76ers -- Jabari Parker, F, Duke freshman, 6-8, 241
Rival executives believe the Sixers -- who covet Wiggins here -- will try to move up if it looks like Milwaukee is going to take him. If not, Parker's scoring ability will help a team that desperately needs offense. Defensively, Parker needs a lot of work, but he is arguably the most NBA-ready player in the draft.
4. Orlando Magic -- Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State sophomore, 6-3, 227
The Magic, according to a source, are considering three players here: Smart, Exum and Noah Vonleh. Orlando has worked out Smart twice and he has been impressive. The Magic need a point guard, and while Smart needs work on his perimeter game, he is more of a pure point guard than Exum, who several executives believe will eventually be a two-guard. Vonleh, a fast rising power forward, is a dark horse here.
5. Utah Jazz -- Dante Exum, G, Australia (18 years old), 6-6, 196
Don't expect Exum to slip further than the Jazz, who will happily add the smooth guard to its young nucleus. Again, there are some doubts as to whether Exum can be a point guard long term -- he certainly believes it and has some of the skills to do it -- but the Jazz are set at the point with Trey Burke and will slot Exum between Burke and Gordon Hayward in a talented perimeter group.
6. Boston Celtics -- Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona freshman, 6-9, 220
Boston has been looking hard at the big men here, a group that includes Gordon, Vonleh and Julius Randle. But league sources believe Celtics brass is highest on Gordon, a strong defender/rebounder whose offensive game will need a lot of work. Boston continues to be aggressive in looking for trades. As ESPN.com reported, the Celtics are pursuing a deal for Kevin Love, though it remains to be seen if the Timberwolves are willing to deal Love before the draft.
7. Los Angeles Lakers -- Noah Vonleh, F, Indiana freshman, 6-10, 247
More and more executives are gushing about the potential of Vonleh. He has all the physical tools, including huge hands, a strong lower body and excellent athleticism. And his perimeter stroke suggests he can become a dangerous inside-out threat. At 18, Vonleh will take time -- which may not make Kobe Bryant happy -- but his potential is very good. The Lakers like Randle here, too.
8. Sacramento Kings -- Julius Randle, F, Kentucky freshman, 6-9, 250
The buzz about Randle's foot problems was in the water supply during the pre-draft combine last month, and Yahoo! Sports advanced it, reporting that Randle may need surgery to correct a broken right foot. Randle has strongly denied it and teams that have examined him say it will not affect the decision to draft him. What could is the growing feeling that Randle doesn't have the defensive upside of some of the other big men in the draft.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Pistons) -- Doug McDermott, F, Creighton senior, 6-8, 218
The Hornets need a scorer, someone to take the pressure off Al Jefferson, and McDermott is as solid as they come. He's not just a shooter; several executives who have seen McDermott work out have raved about his diverse arsenal of shots. And if any coach can turn McDermott into a serviceable defender, it's Steve Clifford.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via Pelicans) -- Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan sophomore, 6-7, 207
Four months ago, the suggestion of Stauskas as a top-10 pick would have been laughable. But Stauskas has looked terrific shooting the ball in group workouts and surprised a few executives with his ability to score off the dribble. He's an average defender without high level athleticism, but guards who can shoot like him are tough to pass up.
11. Denver Nuggets -- Gary Harris, G, Michigan State sophomore, 6-5, 205
Harris is small but a tough, defensive-minded two-guard whose poor perimeter shooting last season at Michigan State continues to haunt him. The Nuggets like both Harris and Stauskas here, according to a source. If Stauskas goes earlier, it makes Denver's decision easy.
12. Orlando Magic -- Rodney Hood, F/G, Duke sophomore, 6-9, 208
Teams continue to be enthralled with Hood's ability to score. He's a polished shooter who can make shots from all over the floor. Ball handling is Hood's biggest weakness. If he can develop an off-the-dribble game, he could be unstoppable. Hood pulled out of a scheduled workout with the Kings last weekend, though reports indicate he may reschedule.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves -- Adreian Payne, F, Michigan State senior, 6-10, 239
With a Kevin Love trade looking more likely, planning for a post-Love future has begun in Minnesota. At 23, Payne is as ready as any other player in the draft to step in and make an immediate impact. Payne is a prototypical stretch four who can hit threes, rebound and run the floor. He's no Kevin Love, but Payne could fit in nicely with the Wolves.
14. Phoenix Suns -- Dario Saric, F, Croatia (20 years old), 6-10, 223
Saric could go anywhere from Nos. 8-16, as teams continue to evaluate the Adriatic League MVP. The Suns are looking at several perimeter players here -- including Hood and James Young, per a source -- but if Saric, a point-forward type with fast improving perimeter skills, falls to the Suns he will be tough to pass up.
15. Atlanta Hawks -- Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia (19 years old), 6-11, 280
Atlanta drafted two international players in the first round last year and can grab another with a big upside here. Nurkic is raw, but the big, physical center has soft hands and tools that remind some scouts of Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic.
16. Chicago Bulls -- P.J. Hairston, G, D-League's Texas Legends (21 years old), 6-5, 229
Chicago has been aggressively shopping its two first-round picks, according to league sources, with an eye on either moving up for a shot at a better player or flipping them for a veteran scorer. Hairston put up some big numbers in the D-League after being exiled from North Carolina and has great size and strength for his position.
17. Boston Celtics -- James Young, G, Kentucky freshman, 6-7, 213
Young has been getting solid reviews in his workouts as teams continue to believe that the wingman, who put up pedestrian shooting numbers at Kentucky, will develop into a dangerous perimeter shooter. With Avery Bradley headed towards restricted free agency, the Celtics need some insurance. This pick, like No. 6, could be a trade chip, too.
18. Phoenix Suns -- Zach LaVine, G, UCLA freshman, 6-6, 181
Where will LaVine go? His stock is all over the board. He has off the charts athleticism and showed occasional flashes of a nice jumper at UCLA. In Phoenix, LaVine brings a little more size to a smallish backcourt and should thrive in Jeff Hornacek's up-tempo system.
19. Chicago Bulls -- K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson junior, 6-6, 196
This is another pick the Bulls are willing to deal, according to sources. McDaniels is a spectacular athlete with huge defensive potential, which Tom Thibodeau will love. McDaniels showed improvement offensively throughout the season, though his perimeter game is still a work in progress.
20. Toronto Raptors -- Tyler Ennis, G, Syracuse freshman, 6-3, 182
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 gone, Oklahoma City has a need for another guard in the rotation. Payton has looked strong in workouts and could be snapped up earlier. He isn't much of a shooter, but he's an effective slashing scorer and a strong defender. The forward thinking Thunder are also aware of what Reggie Jackson could cost when he becomes a restricted free agent after next season.
22. Memphis Grizzlies -- T.J. Warren, F, NC State sophomore, 6-8, 220
It's looking more and more likely that interim boss Chris Wallace and head coach Dave Joerger -- who will have strong input on this decision, according to a source -- are leaning towards a small forward. Warren has looked excellent in workouts, showcasing the old school game that was so effective at NC State. He can contribute now and take over for Tayshaun Prince after next season.
23. Utah Jazz -- Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse sophomore, 6-8, 214
There are a lot of concerns about what kind of offensive player Grant can develop into; he's little more than a dunk and put back guy now. The son of ex-NBAer Harvey Grant -- and nephew of Horace -- has a strong pedigree though, and superior length and athleticism for the position.
24. Charlotte Hornets -- Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland (20 years old), 6-11, 222
The Hornets get a strong rim protecting prospect here in Capela, who will need seasoning. Hornets coach Steve Clifford loves defenders, and the long, athletic Capela has huge potential. Capela is a very good athlete who 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 -- Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State, 6-7, 209
The cap-space-clearing Rockets will shop this pick; if they keep it, Early is the kind of athlete who can thrive in Houston's up-tempo system. With Chandler Parsons a restricted free agent, Early is protection in case a team makes Parsons an offer the Rockets can't match.
26. Miami Heat -- Shabazz Napier, G, UConn senior, 6-1, 175
With Mario Chalmers a free agent -- and his brutal performance in the Finals fresh in Pat Riley's mind -- the Heat save a little money by adding the polished Napier to the mix behind Norris Cole. Kyle Anderson, a versatile combo guard/forward, is in the mix here, too.
27. Phoenix Suns -- Kyle Anderson, G, UCLA sophomore, 6-9, 230
In the right system -- say playing alongside a smallish scoring guard in a run-and-gun offense -- Anderson, a savvy playmaker, can succeed. That's exactly what they have in Phoenix, which can utilize Anderson's strong playmaking skills alongside Goran Dragic. The question on Anderson: What position does he defend?
28. Los Angeles Clippers -- Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan, 6-10, 250
An injury-filled sophomore season dropped McGary's stock. But if healthy, the high energy big man has Tyler Hansbrough-like potential. Teams are still evaluating McGary's back injury, with two executives from teams saying it has raised "significant concerns" about drafting him. If deemed healthy, McGary -- a projected lottery pick a year ago -- is a high value pick for Doc Rivers here.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder -- Jordan Adams, SG, sophomore, UCLA, 6-4, 209
This pick just makes sense. The Thunder badly need a perimeter scorer. Enter Adams, a polished scorer who can post up and come off screens in the halfcourt. Adams is a limited athlete who isn't a particularly strong defender. But he's a floor spacer, which fits Oklahoma City's biggest need.
30 - San Antonio Spurs -- Walter Tavares, C, Cape Verde, 7-3, 265
The Spurs love tapping the international market, and the 7'3", 265-pound Tavares is an intriguing prospect for a team with an aging front line. A true center with limited mobility, Tavares opened some eyes with his play at the Spanish Cup. He's an ideal draft-and-stash candidate, a strategy with which San Antonio is familiar.