Don't get too cozy with the 2014 NBA draft lottery, because it may be the last of its kind.
That's pure speculation, of course, but the NBA has to do something about the league's rampant tanking that took place this past season so that bad franchises could potentially snag an elite player in the lottery.
The exception to the rule among those 14 teams is Phoenix, but such is life. The NBA is a league ruled by individual superstars to a certain extent, so the approach by bad teams destined to miss the postseason made sense, but the league owes it to the fans to place a better product on the court.
The culprits and their chances to win the lottery are as follows.
|2014 NBA Draft Lottery Chances/Projected Order|
|Rank||Team||Chance of Winning|
|6||Los Angeles Lakers||6.3%|
|10||New Orleans Pelicans||1.1%|
|11||Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks)||0.8%|
|12||Orlando Magic (via Denver Nuggets)||0.7%|
*Chances via ESPN.com
Prospects to Watch
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
At 7'0" and plenty talented, it is easy to see why many consider Joel Embiid the best player in the class and a serious candidate for the 2015 Rookie of the Year.
But Embiid is one to watch with the lottery on the horizon. Things are set to enter smokescreen season sooner rather than later, which means Embiid's health and overall game will be a hot topic until he eventually finds a pro home.
Embiid missed the final six games of his collegiate career, which promptly saw Kansas bow out of the tournament in the second round to Stanford.
While a defensive force and sound enough offensively, Embiid is a major risk for teams who just tanked away an entire season to get an elite prospect. Last year, one of the consensus top players was Nerlens Noel, but a knee injury caused him to fall to sixth overall.
The storylines around Embiid are just getting started.
Andrew Wiggins, G/F, Kansas
Chad Ford of ESPN (subscription required) has the latest feelers out, which say Andrew Wiggins is the main prospect to watch at No. 1 overall:
I've been speaking to sources inside each of these teams for months, and it looks like a majority of them -- especially the three teams with the best chance of landing the No. 1 pick (the Bucks, Sixers and Magic) -- are leaning toward Wiggins right now.
Wiggins is a name to watch, as he will also be a victim of smokescreens in some regards. The supreme upside is there thanks to athleticism, as are his averages of 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists, but his tendency to disappear at times will be exploited.
As will his decision to not attend the draft combine, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
Perhaps the best fit of all for Wiggins is in Philadelphia, where he can run wild in the trigger-happy offense he adapts to the pro game. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how much teams in the lottery care about his decision to skip the combine.
Julius Randle, F, Kentucky
It may be a surprise to some, but Julius Randle is a dark horse to wind up in the top three.
After a year in which he was the most consistent player on the Kentucky Wildcats, Randle touts a skill set complete with a strong jumper from range that has some, such as NBA.com's David Aldridge, throwing Zach Randolph comparisons his way:
Comparisons can be flattering, but also facile. Greg Page was not, in the end, the next Muhammad Ali, just because he came from Louisville, too. And so you hear that Kentucky's Julius Randle is, on the court, the next Zach Randolph, which is a heck of a compliment to the 19-year-old. But it's not exactly correct.
The reason why Randolph has been able to succeed for 12 pro seasons despite being a non-jumping, undersized power forward is that he has two of the longest arms ever attached to a human body. They allow him to get his shot off over taller guys and get his mitts on rebounds. Meanwhile, Randle, while having normal arms for most homo sapiens, has short arms for a basketball player. Think Kevin Willis.
Aldridge even spoke to an NBA executive who said the comparison is fair, especially on the defensive end of the court: "He's strong enough to guard his position. He can do some of the things that Zach and the other undersized fours do. He's going to be able to hold his own because he's so strong."
The fact Randle can still add bulk to his frame and improve on his shooting from all areas means there is an alluring upside to his game teams may find difficult to ignore. Don't be shocked when his name is one of the first called.
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