NBA Mock Draft 4.0: Twist at the top
Just when you thought the draft was starting to get predictable, Joel Embiid shakes it up. Again. Embiid’s right foot surgery -- which required two pins to be placed in his navicular bone -- will almost certainly move Embiid out of the top three and could push him deep into the lottery.
How far will Embiid fall? And who will replace him at No. 1? Find out below:
The Cavs were high on Embiid before his foot injury, but rival executives believe Cleveland, which is highly motivated to make the playoffs next season, is unlikely to take a chance on Embiid now. League sources said the Cavaliers are weighing three options: Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum. Parker would provide an instant offensive boost now and develop into an elite scorer down the road. But too many executives believe that the lure of Wiggins, a dynamic talent who plays both ends, will be too good to pass up. Exum is a wild card; like most teams, the Cavs are impressed by his diverse skill set.
There are legitimate questions about where Parker will play -- the Bucks have 19-year-old sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo entrenched at small forward and recently re-signed Larry Sanders at power forward -- but players with Parker’s offensive skill set don’t come along every day. Parker has failed to dazzle in workouts and executives who have seen him have questioned his conditioning. But his offensive potential is undeniable.
Embiid will get strong consideration, despite general manager Sam Hinkie’s history with navicular fractures -- he was an executive in Houston when Yao Ming battled a similar injury. But Exum, who is projected by several executives as a two-guard, is a tremendous talent. An Exum-Michael Carter-Williams backcourt could create havoc off the dribble.
League sources have strongly indicated that although the Magic will consider Embiid, GM Rob Hennigan is not inclined to take a player who may not play much, if at all, next season. Vonleh, a raw but physically gifted 18-year-old, is a safer pick. Vonleh has impressed scouts with his tools, in particular a strong base and big hands, as well as a smooth-looking jump shot that could develop quickly. Exum -- if he is still on the board -- and Marcus Smart are candidates, too.
Tough spot for the Jazz, who covet Parker and Exum and are high on Vonleh, league sources said. Gordon is something of a tweener but he is strong defender and rebounder already and could play small forward in the NBA. Utah has engaged in trade talks to move into the top three and reportedly has expressed a willingness to include forward Derrick Favors in a deal. Embiid, according to a source, is not under strong consideration here.
This just feels like a Danny Ainge pick, doesn’t it? Ainge is in Year 2 of a long rebuilding process and has the full support of ownership. The early reports indicate that Embiid could be back in 4-6 months, though doctors and medical experts have advised SI.com that the average recovery time is 6-9 months, and could be as long as a year. But if Embiid heals properly -- and despite the anecdotal evidence suggesting a broken navicular bone could be a career-threatening injury, most of these injuries heal cleanly -- he could be just the type of franchise player Boston covets.
The Lakers will have some options they like. Julius Randle had a strong workout for them and the team is enthralled by his offensive potential, a source said. But the bet here is that Smart, the bulldozing point guard, is the pick. The Lakers love his size for the position and, as one executive noted, despite the fact that Smart shot poorly from three-point range in college, the form on his jump shot isn’t all that bad. A dark horse: Doug McDermott.
Sacramento has been actively shopping this pick, according to two rival executives. If the Kings keep it, expect them to look to upgrade the frontcourt. Sacramento retained Rudy Gay's services for another season, but it still needs someone to end that revolving door at power forward. Enter Randle, an offensive force who will struggle at the defensive end.
New mock, same home for McDermott. 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.
ESPN.com reported that Saric has a new three-year contract with a Turkish club that will keep him out of the NBA for the next two seasons. Still, Philadelphia can afford to be patient. Saric, the Adriatic League MVP last season, is a strong point forward-type who thrives in the open floor. If Philadelphia passes, that new contract could cause Saric to fall into the bottom half of the first round.
The Nuggets like Stauskas and Michigan State’s Gary Harris, according to a source. Stauskas’ size and shooting give him an edge over Harris, who is smaller and more defensive minded. The Nuggets continue to be involved in the Kevin Love trade talks, though there is a growing sense that the Timberwolves' All-Star power forward will not be traded before the draft.
There is no faster riser in this draft than Payton, the mid-major star who is a high-level defender. It’s almost a lock that the Magic take a point guard here, and they will have a solid group (including Tyler Ennis and Shabazz Napier) to choose from. But Payton’s size, defense and slashing scoring potential make him a strong candidate to be selected by Orlando GM Rob Hennigan, an Oklahoma City alum who was part of the team that drafted Russell Westbrook.
The news that Channing Frye will opt out of his contract opens the door for a player like Payne, a stretch forward/center who can fill a similar role. The knock on Payne is his age (23), but for a Phoenix team that was fighting for a playoff spot last season, getting a polished player is a good thing. Rodney Hood and James Young are candidates here as well.
The Hawks drafted two international players last year, and another -- like Bosnian big man Jusuf Nurkic -- is a possibility. If Atlanta goes the traditional route, rival executives expect the Hawks to look at the collection of swingmen available. Young was inconsistent last season, but scouts believe that with some seasoning he can develop into a standout starting two.
The Bulls continue to shop their two first-round picks. League sources said Chicago has been looking for either future first-rounders -- which would help clear cap space for the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony -- or to package them to move up. If they stay put, Hood is one of the draft’s most dangerous perimeter scorers and would be an instant upgrade for Chicago's anemic offense.
The Celtics have a decision to make with restricted free agent Avery Bradley, who could command a contract in the neighborhood of $7 million to $9 million per year, according to rival executives. There is some debate over the value of Hairston’s D-League stats, but his size and inside-out scoring ability are very appealing.
LaVine's stock continues to be one of the most volatile in the draft. 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.
Napier’s stock continues to rise. He reportedly accepted an invitation to sit in the green room during the draft, a sure sign Napier expects to be selected early. The Bulls are confident that Derrick Rose will be at full strength by training camp, but Napier, a polished playmaker, is a good insurance policy. Tyler Ennis and T.J. Warren are strong possibilities too.
Ennis is a candidate at No. 15 (Atlanta) and No. 19 (Chicago) but won’t get past Toronto. 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.
Warren isn’t the perimeter threat Oklahoma City needs, but the versatile scorer could provide instant punch to the Thunder’s second unit. Warren has looked excellent in workouts, showcasing his old school game that was so effective at NC State.
With Tayshaun Prince entering the last year of his deal, the Grizzlies need a small forward to groom behind him. McDaniels is a spectacular athlete with huge defensive potential, which defensive minded coach Dave Joerger will like. McDaniels showed improvement offensively throughout the season, though his perimeter game is still a work in progress.
This may be a little high for Adams, who isn’t especially athletic for his position. But if the Jazz miss out on Exum, Adams, a strong perimeter shooter who can score off of screens, is a good fit.
The Hornets get a strong rim protector 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.
The Rockets have fielded offers for this pick, according to league sources. Nurkic's draft stock has fluctuated, as there is a sharp difference of opinion on his potential. He is raw, but is a big body and the tools to develop into a solid offensive center, according to international scouts. He’s a project though and may stay overseas for a year or two. That could make sense to Houston, which is looking to keep its books clear to pursue Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James in free agency.
Miami needs depth behind LeBron James and some scoring punch for the second unit. Early is a superior athlete who thrives in an uptempo system and can score in a variety of ways.
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?
The Clippers could use more athleticism at the small forward position. 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.
The Thunder need shooting and Bogdanovic can provide it. Bogdanovic has a clean looking shooting stroke and can score off the dribble. He may stay overseas another year, but down the road he could develop into a solid NBA two-guard.