Now that sports' oddest ritual is behind us, we can begin to lay the foundation out for the 2014 NBA draft with the lottery results in hand.
In early, pre-lottery mock drafts, forecasters shipped Doug McDermott to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now that they're picking No. 1, it's safe to say that won't happen. Unless they're just trying to give Bill Simmons a heart attack.
NBA teams must be more cognizant of team fits than other professional sports franchises. Throwing a smorgasbord of talent on the court won't work without balancing size, speed, ball-handling, rebounding, shooting and defense. Just ask the Detroit Pistons.
Let's revise some draft predictions after viewing the draft order.
|7||Los Angeles Lakers|
|9||Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit Pistons)|
|10||Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans Pelicans)|
|11||Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks)|
|12||Orlando Magic (via Denver Nuggets)|
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
The team improbably holding the No. 1 pick could use a center, enhancing Joel Embiid's chances at becoming the first overall selection.
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman, Embiid is Cleveland's early front-runner for the top spot.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have 7-footer Joel Embiid at the top of their draft board, but it's still early in the process and the team needs to obtain medical information on the Cameroon native's back injury, sources told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
Sources also told ESPN.com that although Embiid is first on the organization's wish list, that doesn't mean that Cavs general manager David Griffin—who had the interim tag lifted earlier this month—isn't also considering Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker with the first pick.
Despite acquiring Spencer Hawes as a steady stopgap during the 2013-14 season, Cleveland still needs a long-term rim protector. As a freshman, Embiid swatted 2.6 blocks per game with the Kansas Jayhawks while shooting 62.6 percent from the floor.
An interesting scenario will unfold should Wiggins and Parker go off the board first. The Philadelphia 76ers have Nerlens Noel at center, but they'd be hard-pressed to pass on Embiid at No. 3. They're even less likely to take a point guard with Michael Carter-Williams at the helm, derailing the next best choice, Dante Exum.
Taking the center with back issues over Wiggins—an athletic phenom with a superstar ceiling—or Parker—a proven contributor at Duke with the lowest downside of the trio—seems like the Cleveland thing to do. Unless the Portland Trailblazers warn them otherwise, don't be surprised if the Cavs go big with Embiid.
Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 1)
Dante Exum, G, Australia
After sliding down one spot to No. 4, the Orlando Magic are a perfect fit for Australia's Dante Exum.
They'll presumably miss out on Embiid, Parker and Wiggins, forcing them to choose the best among the rest. For a team in need of a ball-handler and offensive playmaker, Exum is the easy choice.
A combo guard who dazzled internationally, Exum introduced himself to the United States with an impressive NBA combine showing. ESPN's Chad Ford summarized his performance.
Dante Exum with a 10.75 sec lane agility drill score. Ran a 3.19 second 3/4 sprint. Both scores top among all 2 guards he's testing with.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 16, 2014
The Magic toyed with using Victor Oladipo at point guard, a move that netted mixed results. While Exum is also more of an athletic hybrid, he feels he will flourish as more of a true floor general. Here's how he described his game, per USA Today's Paul Coro.
I'm a get-to-the-rim type of player. I beat my man off the dribble and try to draw help to find different players. I guess that's what puts me in good position to be a point guard and also be that kind of vocal leader, to have that voice that tells players what needs to be done and be that voice for the coach.
Look for the Magic to be mystified by Exum at pick No. 4.
Prediction: Orlando Magic (No. 4)
Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
As alluded to earlier, McDermott would have made a logical target for the Cavaliers had they stayed put at No. 9. The lottery shocker eliminates one of his best possible landing spots, threatening his lottery candidacy.
Luckily, some other results ran in his favor. The ownership of two picks depended on if they fell into protected areas from trade agreements. While the Detroit Pistons would have kept their selection if they remained at No. 8 or higher, they forfeit the pick to the Charlotte Hornets after dropping to No. 9.
The New Orleans Pelicans also must surrender their pick (No. 10) to the Philadelphia 76ers since it didn't fall into the top-five safety valve. That gives selections to two teams in need of a long-range shooter to space the floor.
The NCAA standout brings instant offense and unlimited range to the table. As highlighted by Goodman, he also displayed his underrated athleticism during the combine.
Doug McDermott celebrating after a strong 36.5-inch vertical. pic.twitter.com/xWEiFwAz4s— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 16, 2014
He could go No. 9 or 10, but Dario Saric, Gary Harris and Nik Stauskas are also vying for consideration. Even if they all go before McDermott, he can stay in the lottery with the Minnesota Timberwolves at No. 13. They ranked 26th with a 34.1 three-point shooting percentage and need another scorer to juxtapose Kevin Love, if he's even still around.
Prediction: Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 13)