When ESPN NBA draft expert Chad Ford unveils his most recent mock draft, people listen.
It's impossible to accurately predict how every general manager will act in the first round of the 2014 draft, but Ford at least gives fans a road map for how the night might unfold after using both his player evaluations and connections inside the league.
You can view his latest mock draft on ESPN.com (ESPN Insider subscription required).
|1||Cleveland Cavaliers||Joel Embiid, C, Kansas|
|2||Milwaukee Bucks||Jabari Parker, SF, Duke|
|3||Philadelphia 76ers||Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas|
|4||Orlando Magic||Dante Exum, PG, Australia|
|5||Utah Jazz||Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana|
|6||Boston Celtics||Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona|
|7||Los Angeles Lakers||Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State|
|8||Sacramento Kings||Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette|
|9||Charlotte Hornets||Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton|
|10||Philadelphia 76ers||Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky|
|11||Denver Nuggets||Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State|
|12||Orlando Magic||Dario Saric, PF, Croatia|
|13||Minnesota Timberwolves||Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan|
|14||Phoenix Suns||James Young, SG, Kentucky|
|15||Atlanta Hawks||Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia|
|16||Chicago Bulls||Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State|
|17||Boston Celtics||Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA|
|18||Phoenix Suns||T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State|
|19||Chicago Bulls||Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut|
|20||Toronto Raptors||Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse|
|21||Oklahoma City Thunder||Rodney Hood, SG, Duke|
|22||Memphis Grizzlies||Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee|
|23||Utah Jazz||Jordan Clarkson, PG, Missouri|
|24||Charlotte Hornets||P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends|
|25||Houston Rockets||K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson|
|26||Miami Heat||Kyle Anderson, PF, UCLA|
|27||Phoenix Suns||Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland|
|28||Los Angeles Clippers||Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan|
|29||Oklahoma City Thunder||Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA|
|30||San Antonio Spurs||Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State|
The current consensus is that the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to Joel Embiid with the first overall pick.
ESPN Cleveland's Tony Rizzo reported that the team wasn't impressed with the Kansas star after bringing him to Cleveland for predraft workouts:
Fran Fraschilla of ESPN wondered if that was only misdirection and subterfuge, which is always common around draft season:
"Sources say that Embiid's medical with Cavs did not go well." Translation: Cavs will take Embiid but don't want you to know that yet.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) June 14, 2014
Before he dropped his most recent mock draft, Ford talked with Jay Bilas on ESPN.com (ESPN Insider subscription required) about the merits of Embiid as the No. 1 pick. Both came down on the side of going with Embiid ahead of either Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins.
Ford believed he'd be a great complement for an All-Star point guard like Kyrie Irving, while Bilas likened the big man to a young Hakeem Olajuwon.
With Embiid gone, you could make a case for either Parker or Wiggins going No. 2. The former is the better player right now, while the latter has the higher potential.
Having Wiggins fall to No. 3 might be the best-case scenario for the Philadelphia 76ers. Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Sixers are considering every scenario in which they can either move up or get lucky enough to grab the Kansas freshman.
Management must've been doing cartwheels reading Ford's mock.
The first seven picks of his draft were somewhat predictable. Dante Exum, Noah Vonleh, Marcus Smart and Aaron Gordon have all been hovering around the top 10 for a while now, so to see them off the board early isn't a surprise.
What did turn some heads was Ford's eight pick.
Few players are seeing a bigger rise in the last few weeks than Elfrid Payton. The Louisiana-Lafayette point guard was seen as a late-to-mid-first-rounder for most of the predraft process, but Ford has him going eighth overall to the Kings:
If the Lakers or Celtics grab Smart and Julius Randle falls, I think they could shock everyone and take Payton over a player like Randle. Two months ago, having Payton this high seemed nuts, but he's been one of just two or three guys that have gotten rave reviews in every workout they have had. His size, toughness, defense and leadership abilities would all be welcome in Sacramento.
The ESPN insider isn't alone when it comes to his belief in Payton's ability. Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard was impressed with what he has seen of the Ragin' Cajuns star to the this point:
Don't sleep on Elfrid Payton... I watched couple of his games . He can hoop— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) June 17, 2014
While he's a tremendous ball-handler who can get to the basket, Payton's lack of long-range ability is a bit of a liability. In his last two seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette, he shot 32 percent and 25.9 percent, respectively, from behind the arc.
Opposing defenses won't be afraid to step off Payton when he's on the ball and goad him into taking an ill-advised shot.
You can understand why the Kings could take the risk, even if he'd be a bit of a reach at No. 8.
Ford waited until the 19th pick to drop his next major surprise.
Most fans and experts expect the Chicago Bulls to pursue a point guard who can back up Derrick Rose and fill in as a starter in emergency situations. In addition, those same fans and experts more than likely have Tyler Ennis ranked higher on their draft boards.
Although Ennis is still available to the Bulls at 19 in his mock, Ford has Chicago opting instead for Shabazz Napier.
"We've had Tyler Ennis to the Bulls for several mocks, but I'm beginning to hear a slight preference for Napier in Chicago," he wrote.
Of the two, Napier is arguably the more NBA-ready, which may be more appealing for the Bulls. They have the pieces to win now and if—worst-case scenario—Rose goes down, Chicago would want a player it can rely on right now, not some project who may take a year or two to find his footing.
While Napier's ceiling is low, he can play a role right now, and that's a trait that most players in this year's draft don't have.
As the draft inches closer, Ford will likely tweak his first-round projections. But what you see now is about what you can expect with June 26 rapidly approaching.