The revenge of the stress fracture.
After a couple of foot injuries the NBA draft is having a big shakeup before this Thursday. Joel Embiid's stress facture and Julius Randle's "is it or isn't it?" foot injury has the #1 overall pick and some of the top 10 looking to change. This has changed the mock considerably, starting at number one.
#1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas
There have been very good cases made for Wiggins having both the highest floor and ceiling in this draft. His versatility at the two or the three as an elite defender and athlete has him already fitting seamlessly into a key role in the NBA at the very least. His potential as a scorer is clear, with performances such as his 41 points against West Virginia with 19 free throws or his 29 points against Iowa State on only 16 shots show his ability to get to the rim and also be efficient as an offensive player. The trait you got from Wiggins watching him all year was that he has those raw intangibles you want in a basketball player. He closed out some close games for Kansas by not only having the key offensive and defensive plays, but also hustling for loose balls and rebounds. He's a special player and I think he is going to be the real deal. For the Cavs, they can play him at the 2 or 3 depending on what they want to do with Dion Waiters.
#2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Parker is the complete package as an offensive player. His ability to score from virtually anywhere on the floor gets overlooked by his basketball IQ and passing ability that has him get in the best positions to score and also get out of it by setting up a teammate. Parker didn't get enough credit for playing way out of position at Duke all season, and that workload hurt his development a little bit in my opinion. Parker was a great teammate at Duke and showed that he has the motor to go out and do everything he can to win. The holdback on Parker is his average at best defending in college, and he will probably never be an average one in the NBA. Still, he's going to be a very good scorer in the pros and gives the Bucks a true offensive weapon.
#3. Philadelphia 76ers: Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
This is a tough break for the Sixers, who almost got their boy Wiggins despite falling a spot on lottery night. Still, they are very high on Exum and think that he could play with Michael Carter-Williams off at the 2 guard. The other thought is that the Sixers could trade MCW with his stock maybe never being higher. Exum is great with the ball at full speed, as his ability to get to the rim and finish with athleticism has him where he is in the draft. The Sixers get another really high potential guy here and continue to rebuild.
#4. Orlando Magic: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Now in this scenario the Magic do not need to decide between Exum and Smart and can just go with the best choice in my opinion. After this draft, they will have a clear cut group of young players that are their core for the future. They still don't have a leader yet, and Smart will be that. Like Julius Randle, he has disappeared a bit due to the star appeal of the top four rated guys in the draft and that's not fair. Smart is a power guard in every sense of the term. He is superb at getting to the basket, finishing, and working on the boards for a 6'3 guard. His steal numbers in his two seasons at Oklahoma State were absurd and he should be a very good defender in the NBA. He's the best pure leader and competitor in the draft and that's what you want in your future point guard. He still can't shoot consistently, but neither could a lot of great point guards at this stage of their career. This is a great pick for the Magic.
#5. Utah Jazz: Aaron Gordon, SF, Arizona
The Jazz have their core young group completely figured out (if they resign Hayward) except for a small forward. Gordon is the best fit here and can bring some much needed lockdown defense to a very bad defensive team. Trey Burke will find Gordon in his spots, and Gordon will continue to work on his offensive game and corner 3 while he wreaks havoc defensively, on the boards, and in transition. He has the tools as a ball handler and a passer to become a very good overall offensive player, and that potential combined with being the best defender in the draft (can guard 4 positions) is what has him in this spot.
#6. Boston Celtics: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
If there is one team that has no idea where they are headed and can afford to take a risk on a big time talent like Embiid it's the Celtics. The more analysis we get on Embiid's injury in regards to the history of his problems to big men in the past the more pessimistic we get on Embiid. The fact remains that he's a unique 7 footer in the way he moves, his feel for the post, and his shooting ability despite only playing basketball for four years so far. His play as a defender with that athleticism and height obviously has him as a prime shot blocker, but that offensive potential is what had all of us wanting to jump in front of oncoming traffic after hearing the news of his stress fracture in his foot and requiring surgery. The Celtics are a very good match (besides a certain team with a fantastic training staff).
#7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The Lakers are really high on Exum and Smart, but if they both aren't here Randle is the only considerable pick left despite the injury. Randle is a monster inside who will demand a double team in the NBA down low with his ability in both face-ups and with his back to the basket. He's skilled on the boards and is a workhorse with his incredible motor. His ballhandling is good, but Kentucky was a little too content with him attacking the basket from the perimeter, which hurt his stock a little bit in my opinion. His jumper fell off the face of the earth, as he was supposed to enter Kentucky looking like a power stretch 4 that we have very rarely seen. His potential down low is enough for him to be in this spot, but keep an eye on his jumper.
#8. Sacramento Kings: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Vonleh's two-way potential as both a stretch 4 and a shot blocker is what has his appeal met by so many teams. For the Kings, they could use both. I don't know if you heard, but DeMarcus "BOOGIE" Cousins averaged 23 and 12 last year. Despite those monstrous numbers from Boogie, he still needs help defensively. Vonleh's insane length will help Boogie on that end and Vonleh's ability to stretch the floor with his great shooting will help Boogie get more space on the other end. Protect Boogie at all costs. Don't discard the rebounding numbers these two could put up, as Vonleh is a very good athlete at 6'10 who can really work the boards. Vonleh's potential is clearly there on both ends, it's just going to take a while. Luckily, the Kings are not in a hurry out West.
#9. Charlotte Hornets (from Detroit): Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
This pick all depends on how high you are on Stauskas. If you aren't that high, you go Doug McDermott here. I'm high on Stauskas though, so the best shooter not named Doug comes off the board. Gerald Henderson was a mess against the Heat in the playoffs and the Hornets are relatively set across the starting five if Josh McRoberts (MCBOB) comes back except for Henderson's spot. Insert Stauskas, whose overall ability offensively gets overlooked a bit in my opinion. He did well in his stints at point guard and understands the way the floor works. His concerns defensively are well deserved, but boy can this kid shoot, and the Hornets need it.
#10. Philadelphia 76ers (from New Orleans): Dario Saric, PF, Croatia
The Sixers have been high on Saric for quite some time and he fills in another gap left on the Sixers roster. Saric has unreal court vision though and he's as much of a point forward as there's ever been before. I'm not sure how he would work on the floor with two point guards, but if any team has time to figure this out it's the Sixers.
#11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The only roster spot the Nuggets aren't severely financially committed to is shooting guard, and although they had Randy Foye play relatively well last year, Harris has to be the pick here. Harris is a good defender and a very good overall scorer who can handle the ball and has some teams even wondering if he could play point at the next level. If he can get some consistency to his jump shot he will be a steal.
#12. Orlando Magic (from New York via Denver: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
The power forward and small forward position are now an uncertainty for the Magic after the post trade deadline Tobias Harris (averaged 17/9) disappeared and Mo Harkless didn't show much till the end of last season. McDermott gives them a proven offensive threat who can stretch the floor and score from anywhere. Our own Jacob Padilla covered McDermott at Creighton, so I feel better about linking you to the draft profile he did more than my own analysis. Seeing three of the top players in college basketball in 2013 on the same team together (Smart, Oladipo, McDermott) would be fascinating.
#13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
That Kevin Love fella appears to be on his way out and the Timberwolves could use a replacement for him. Payne could be that guy with his complete play as a stretch 4 coming out of nowhere this past season. He's already showed over his college career how explosive he is and how solid of a defender and rebounder he can be. The shooting put him over the top, and he could help the Timberwolves a lot.
#14. Phoenix Suns: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana
As I said last time, just take the best player and move on. I think that's what Payton is, and minus his shooting he's a complete basketball player. He's a great defender and believe it or not was the one tasked with guarding Doug McDermott at times in their NCAA tournament game. Payton is one of the best players in the draft in terms of getting to the basket and his unselfish play as a point guard adds even more to that skill. He's a tough and very good leader on the floor who could help run the second unit for the Suns. The uncertainty surrounding Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe in the future also gives the Suns some very good insurance.
#15. Atlanta Hawks: James Young, SF, Kentucky
The Hawks need more shooters and Young could help there. DeMarre Carroll is the only small forward that is due to come back for the Hawks next year, and Young gives them someone with more potential who could help off the bench to start.
#16. Chicago Bulls (from Charlotte): Rodney Hood, SG, Duke
The Bulls are desperate for another shooter and that's the one thing that Hood is great at. He's a good scorer in terms of getting to the rim and his 6'9 height really helps him at the 2 guard. He is a very bad defender though and will take quite some time to even be adequate. That makes it somewhat of a poor match for the Bulls, but they just need to go for offense here.
#17. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn): Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
As far as possible growth goes, LaVine and Embiid probably have the two biggest gaps in terms of where they are as players now and where they could be at their peak. LaVine is an incredible athlete that has the speed and hops to warrant a first round selection. He did more than that in the first half of the season as a scorer and a shooter, as he was looking like a top 10 pick until his production dipped tremendously in the second half of the season. In his last seven games LaVine shot 3-21 from three, killing the belief that he could at the very least come in the NBA and be able to shoot right away. He's got a long way to go before being a good basketball player, let alone a complete one. However, a rebuild under Brad Stevens is one of the best fits he could have in this draft.
#18. Phoenix Suns (from Washington): TJ Warren, SF, North Carolina State
This one took me a while. I think Cleanthony Early and KJ McDaniels are better fits, but this is a little too high for them. Warren is the only small forward ranked in this range, so I've got the Suns taking him. He is a complete scorer who is tough and understands how to get buckets. The tweener concerns as a shooter and a defender are very real though, and I'm not as high on him as some are. For the sake of value he goes.
#19. Chicago Bulls: Jordan Clarkson, PG, Missouri
Derrick Rose insurance is ideal and a player who could be lightning off the bench is even better. Clarkson is a long 6'5 and he uses that well to score when smaller point guards on him either from the post or in attacking the basket. He's never going to put someone on a poster but he's a smooth player who is a great finisher at the rim. He's not as pure of a point guard as others in this draft as a playmaker but can really score. He's been one of the workout wonders of this process and if he shoots it as well as he has been in workouts he is worth it around this range.
#20. Toronto Raptors: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Ennis might be the most pure point guard in this draft. He's an incredible passer with great floor vision and understands how to manipulate the defense. He's proved himself at Syracuse in terms of being able to shoot and finish at the rim. He's not as attractive as some of the other point guards in this draft which is why he slips to down here, but the Raptors have both Kyle Lowry and Grevis Vasquez leaving. The hometown kid would be a good replacement for either.
#21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas): PJ Hairston, SG, North Carolina
The Thunder need a guard who can hit open threes and PJ Hairston would love that job. He has a bulky body that is ready for the NBA right now and uses that to attack the basket very well. His shooting is what has him here though and the Thunder would love him.
#22. Memphis Grizzlies: KJ McDaniels, SF, Clemson
This is a perfect match. McDaniels has the look of a lockdown defender in the NBA and has the all-around tools in that department to succeed. Like I said last time, McDaniels and Jamal Franklin could continue to develop while the Grizzlies make a couple more runs in the West.
#23. Utah Jazz: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
The Jazz are concerned about Enes Kanter entering restricted free agency so having Nurkic overseas would be an insurance policy. I'm not that high on Nurkic, but his size and touch inside is enough for him to be rated around here.
#24. Charlotte Hornets: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Capela is extremely raw but has all the physical tools to become a very good player. If the Hornets resign Josh McRoberts they should have Capela be ready by the time his contract runs out.
#25. Houston Rockets: CJ Wilcox, SG, Washington
The Rockets relied on Troy Daniels during the postseason to be their extra shooter on the floor and Wilcox could do that and more. It's a very hefty comparison but he reminds me of Ray Allen with less offense and more defense. He could help Houston right away.
#26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Mario Chalmers is an unrestricted free agent and LeBron is a fan of Shabazz. This is highly contingent on whether or not they plan on resigning Mario of course, but if they don't Napier is the pick.
#27. Phoenix Suns (from Indiana): Damien Inglis, SF, France
The Suns will not bring in three rookies so here is the international pick. Inglis has the potential to be a great defender with his great strength and length. He uses this on the boards and in finishing at the basket as well. He's only 19 so the Suns could have him overseas for a while. It's a slight reach but he could pay off.
#28. Los Angeles Clippers: Kyle Anderson, PF, UCLA
Leave it to Doc Rivers to figure out how to use Anderson. With Darren Collison possibly on the way out Anderson could run the show for the second unit with Jamal Crawford. I'd pay to see that.
#29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
Robinson has proved in workouts that he can indeed shoot the ball, which adds onto his great athleticism and scoring ability already. He's a good rebounder and at his size (6'7) you assume he could become a good defender.
#30. San Antonio Spurs: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
This makes too much sense. I love Early. He can fly high in transition, bang inside, or knock down the open three. He embraces contact and loves to attack the boards. This is your typical Spurs steal.