The NBA’s 20 green-room invitees descended upon midtown Manhattan on Wednesday for the draft’s annual media day. On the eve of the main event, here are 10 takeaways, sights and sounds from the scene.
Projected top picks draw top crowds
The media horde was already waiting for Andrew Wiggins long before he entered the room Wednesday afternoon, where it was near-impossible to get close to the potential top pick, and even harder to hear what the soft-spoken star was saying, particularly from the back of the scrum. The former Kansas star drew the biggest crowd of the day and was peppered with questions about LeBron James and the ascent of his Canadian countrymen into the NBA ranks.
Across the room, a similar cluster of reporters circled Jabari Parker’s table, where he debunked rumors that he “tanked” a workout in Cleveland with intent on landing in Milwaukee at No. 2.
“Anywhere I go is great,” said Parker, who ranks first on SI.com’s Big Board. “Whoever drafts me, I’m going to accept that opportunity.”
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Exum continues to endear himself
Dante Exum drew a giant crowd, as expected, and entertained the media and their questions with poise. His charm showed why companies including Red Bull and Foot Locker have already invested in his marketability. "I was thinking I was going to have to move over to the states just to get college offers,” he said, addressing his ascent. “Everything's happened so fast."
The Aussie point guard also sounded just as curious as the rest of the basketball world about who his future team might be after having worked out for Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Orlando (picks 2-4).
"I have no clue where I'm going,” he said with a laugh. “I've been bugging my agent to try and talk to GM's and find out who's picking me. I guess I want a surprise when it happens, but really I just want to know."
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Randle: Frustration afoot
While the biggest injury-related storyline has been Joel Embiid’s fractured foot, another likely lottery pick has been dealing with a similar issue. According to a report from Yahoo Sports earlier this month, Randle will likely need surgery on his right foot after the draft and could miss six to eight weeks. Multiple executives believe the injury is a minor issue, according to the report.
Randle downplayed the news after a workout with the Boston Celtics, telling the media that his foot is fine and describing the injury as minor. He echoed that Wednesday.
“It was frustrating when I initially heard it, but I could care less,” he said. “I don’t put anything into it.”
He also said he doesn’t believe the report has hurt his stock. “Every team I’ve talked to said that, as far as the foot thing, whether they wanted to do something or not, it’s not affecting their decision on if they want to take me or not.”
The 6-foot-9 power forward had a pin inserted into his foot after fracturing it in high school. Randle played every game for Kentucky while earning All-SEC first team honors last season.
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Young thought he would be a top-10 pick
When James Young declared for the draft on April 17, he believed he was going to be a top-10 pick. Asked Wednesday about his thoughts at the time of his announcement, Young said, “I thought I was definitely going to be in [the] top 10. I don’t know if I am or not [now].”
The former Kentucky wing is ranked 4th in SI.com’s small forward rankings and projected to go 15th in the latest mock draft.
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Vonleh wants to be a small forward
At 6-foot-9 with a 7-4 wingspan, Noah Vonleh projects as a power forward in the NBA. However, don’t rule out the future lottery pick switching to the wing at some point down the road. Vonleh was asked whether he will focus on improving a specific area of his game as he transitions into the league.
“I’m going to keep focusing on ballhandling, because at some point I definitely want to be a three man in the NBA,” the Indiana product said. Vonleh added he spent time at wing in high school and has played the position in workouts.
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McDermott prepared to leave the nest
Playing for his dad all throughout college at Creighton raised questions about how Doug McDermott might acclimate to a new system. He went so far as to say that he’s “ready for a new coach.” McDermott called the move “bittersweet,” citing his experience with USA Basketball in his own defense.
McDermott worked out for Los Angeles, Boston, Charlotte and Orlando. Throughout the draft process, McDermott heard some other interesting questions. “I don’t think a lot of people thought I could even dunk.”
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Who is the best shooter of 2014?
A group of prospects weighed in on who they thought was the best marksman in the draft.
McDermott: “I’d like to say myself, but you know, that guy to the left [Nik Stauskas] right there is pretty dang good, too. We’ve been working out against each other every day in Chicago, so we go back and forth.”
T.J. Warren: “Best shooter?” Warren asked. After a pause, he said: “C.J. Wilcox.”
Gary Harris: “As a competitor,” Harris said, nominating himself. “Yeah, I’d say so.”
Saric confirms NBA timetable
One of the biggest news items of draft week came on Monday, with Dario Saric’s decision to sign for Turkish club Anadolu Efes. Speculation ran rampant up until the last possible moment that Saric was going to pull out of the draft. And just after everyone was starting to get comfortable with the idea of him in the NBA next year, Saric confirmed Wednesday that the plan was to remain overseas.
“The longest I'll stay in Europe is two years,” he said. "I have no regrets,” the Croatian said in his debut in front of American media. “I feel ready now, but I think I’ll be better with two more years.”
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New 'White Chocolate?'
Nik Stauskas discussed his lifelong NBA fanhood. “I used to call myself White Chocolate,” he said with a laugh. His game may not quite resemble former Kings point guard Jason Williams, but if Stauskas proves he can handle running an offense to go along with his three-point prowess, his usefulness as a pro would jump significantly.
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Paging Looney Tune Land...
Gary Harris discussed an unusual career origin story. Although like many, Michael Jordan spurred his involvement in the game, Harris said his earliest experience with basketball was Space Jam, crediting the classic animated film for piquing his interest in hoops. He added that wouldn’t turn down a role in a potential sequel, if it was ever offered to him.
Jeremy Woo, Chris Johnson, Brad Popkin, Alex Squadron, Evan Webeck and Morgan Wolf contributed reporting.