2014 NBA Draft: Expert Predictions from Around the Web

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2014

2014 NBA Draft: Expert Predictions from Around the Web

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    It's almost here. 

    Months of wondering, pining and mock drafting have all been leading up to this: The actual 2014 NBA draft. 

    On Thursday, June 26, fans will watch with bated breath as certain teams' futures unfold right before their eyes. Prospects will look on as their first NBA home is assigned to them. Trades will be struck. Surprise picks will be made.

    Predictions will turn to mush. 

    Until then, though, educated guesses are all we have. Some of the best in the business have guided us through this period of uncertainty by providing insight into some of the most pressing questions.

    Who will go No. 1 following Joel Embiid's injury? Where will Jabari Parker land? What's to become of the once-peerless Andrew Wiggins?

    All of these inquests—and more—will be answered soon. Very soon. 

    For now, we have the privilege of priming ourselves for another hectic draft night with the help of a few, well-informed friends.

CBS Sports: Jabari Parker to Cavaliers at No. 1

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    Injuries have changed everything.

    Embiid has sat comfortably atop most mock drafts since the Cleveland Cavaliers won their third lottery in four years, but a fractured right foot is expected to leave him sidelined for at least four months, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, guaranteeing he won't go first overall.

    No matter, though, because Parker is waiting.

    Ken Berger of CBS Sports said that the Cavs are "leaning toward" taking Parker at No. 1, a projection that his colleague, Gary Parrish, confirmed.

    Parker's subtle rise to the top of draft boards isn't too shocking. He's viewed as the most NBA-ready prospect of his class, and his inside-out offensive repertoire is one which teams value in tweener forwards.

    More attention will be paid to Wiggins if Parker goes to Cleveland. This time last year, he was the unquestioned No. 1 pick. He had no peers. 

    Then came Embiid. And now Parker.

    What gives?

ESPN.com's Chad Ford: Parker Angling for Milwaukee Relocation

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    It's not every day word reaches that a high-profile player or prospect wants to play for the Milwaukee Bucks.

    This is one of those uber-special occasions.

    Chad Ford of ESPN.com (subscription required) opened up his latest mock draft with a massive info-bomb when he revealed that Parker may have tanked his workout with the Cavaliers:

    Parker came in to work out on Friday in front of the Cavs' front office and ownership. Parker wasn't great. He was a bit heavy (he weighed in at 255 pounds), didn't shoot the ball well and got winded at times. Furthermore, two different sources told ESPN.com that Parker seemed a bit indifferent. One source said he thought Parker "tanked" the workout.

    Why? A source says he strongly prefers to play in Milwaukee. The Cavs appear to be aware of this. "Jabari wasn't himself," one source said. "It was clear we weren't his first option."

    Weird, weird, weird.

    Like many others, Ford still has the Cavaliers selecting Parker over Wiggins, which is also weird. Why roll the dice on a No. 1 pick who potentially doesn't want to play for you?

    The Cavs could chalk his performance up to workout jitters, or ignore Ford's report entirely. But Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio was among those who confirmed that Parker's workout with the Cavs didn't go as well as Embiid's or Wiggins'.

    As for why Parker wouldn't embrace Cleveland's interest, we don't have an answer. Maybe he doesn't want to take a backseat to Kyrie Irving. Perhaps he was hoping to catch the fall premiere of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Maybe Dion Waiters recounted a Cavs rookie hazing ritual before his workout that included juggling a rabid trio of pink fairy armadillos.

    Whatever it is that may have turned Parker off about Cleveland, it doesn't seem the Cavs will take it to heart.

    Or will they?

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman: Dante Exum's Draft-Night Swell

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    Dante Exum could be on the cusp of getting everything Parker apparently wants, according to Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman:

    Dante Exum isn't exactly the highest-profile prospect in the class, but he could be when we look back a few years from now. I continue to hear the Milwaukee Bucks are interested in finding out for themselves.

    Can't sidestep the obvious here: Wiggins isn't getting a lot of love. Embiid has fallen out of the top spot, and Wiggins could still drop to the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 3.


    Yet not completely crazy.

    Wasserman isn't alone. David Aldridge of NBA.com has the Bucks taking Exum at No. 2 as well. They're apparently intrigued by the mismatches he creates, not unlike Michael Carter-Williams in Philly. 

    Though their skill sets are similar, Exum is more explosive and projects as a better off-ball prospect, making it easier for him to slide between point guard and shooting guard. 

    Combo guards with star potential remain scarce in the NBA, so if the Bucks are confident that they have enough firepower at the 3 and 4 spots, Exum may find himself in Milwaukee.

    Does that change if Parker slips past Cleveland at No. 1?

    If Parker's love for Milwaukee is real, then maybe, just maybe, the Bucks' decision becomes a little harder.

DraftExpress.com: Some Love for Wiggins

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    Not everyone has Wiggins getting past the Cavaliers.

    The folks over at DraftExpress.com have Wiggins holding down the No. 1 spot after Embiid's injury.

    Sort of feels like it's June 2013 and we haven't watched Embiid or Parker play yet, doesn't it? Those were the good ol' days. Things were simpler then.

    While they've become pleasantly complicated thanks to an influx of star-quality performers, Wiggins should still be very much in play for the first pick, as USA Today's Adi Joseph also explained:

    He was the presumed No. 1 pick entering the season and showcased his remarkable upside in flashes during the season. He still must get more consistent but has a greater ceiling than the other candidates for No. 1 with Embiid out of the picture.

    The Cavs need help at small forward, too, and Wiggins can plug right into the starting lineup. Because Cleveland has several solid scorers, he will be allowed to get his feet under him and work on what could be elite-level defensive skills.

    Forget potential upside for a minute. If I'm the Cavs, I'm most encouraged by the absence of a report that alleges Wiggins is trying to pull a LeBron James before he's even in Cleveland. 

    Parker's potential disdain for the Cavaliers has to be taken under consideration.

    Either they select the most NBA-ready prospect of the draft, who may or may like them about as much as Gregg Popovich does mid-game interviews, or they go with the athletic phenom, who has exhibited no public or private ill-will toward the Cavs or any of their affiliates.

    Oh, there's Wiggins' pre-draft bravado, too.

    “I think I’ll be a star wherever I go," he said, per the Journal Sentinel's Bob Wolfley. "That’s just how confident I am in my ability.”

    This kid might find his killer instinct just yet.

NBA.com's David Aldridge: Joel Embiid Does the Nerlens Noel Slide

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    One question on everyone's minds heading into the draft: How far will Embiid fall?

    Aldridge's answer: pretty darn far.

    All the way to the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 7.

    From Aldridge:

    If Boston passes on Embiid, the Lakers won't. Whatever you think of Andrew Bynum, L.A. won a title with him, and he had worse medicals coming out of high school than Embiid does now. It's a marriage that makes sense, given Tellem's long-held affinity for the franchise and L.A.'s gaping need to improve at the defensive end. 

    Before you start belting out profane slurs at the top of your lungs, such a drop isn't impossible. 

    Nerlens Noel was touted as the No. 1 prospect last season, before an ACL injury aided his slide to No. 6. Embiid could fall further since he has a history of back and knee problems to accompany his recent foot injury. One general manager with a top-10 pick was even told "flat-out" by his medical staff "not to take him," according to ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman

    Many of the teams ahead of the Lakers are also set at center already. The Bucks, Sixers, Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz don't have significant holes to fill at the 5, and there's no way the Cavs still plan on taking Embiid at No. 1.

    Watching him fall past the Boston Celtics is the real issue. The C's have a desperate need for size and rim protection. Embiid's not-so-clean bill of health may not scare them away.

    Wasserman also names the Jazz as a threat with the fifth pick. He has them snatching up Embiid "given his towering upside and the lack of obvious answers to choose from."

    Wherever Embiids lands, it's going to be later than anticipated. 

    What remains to be seen is whether his draft-night dip leaves Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak smiling from ear to ear, or smacking his knee whilst muttering "Ah, shucks" under his breath. 

Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears: Aaron Gordon's Top-8 Extravaganza

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    Aaron Gordon is going places.

    Unless those places are located outside the top eight of the lottery.

    Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears had the Celtics selecting Gordon at No. 6 in his latest mock draft. Though that wasn't unheard of, many mocks have him going outside the top eight, falling as far as No. 10 and beyond. 

    Not Spears. And why? Because league sources told him that Gordon is "receiving consideration from the Orlando Magic (pick No. 4) and is not expected to get past the Sacramento Kings with the eighth selection."

    To think that Gordon could crack the top five is incredible.

    Then again, maybe not.

    There isn't a more athletic player in the draft. At 6'9", Gordon is built like a forward and explodes off the catch like a guard. His offensive games lacks polish, but he's already someone who can move the needle on defense and as a leading rebounder.

    Will that be enough to vault him into the top five or even top four?

    Apparently, it could be. 

SB Nation: Marcus Smart's Meteoric Rise

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    We thought Marcus Smart's draft stock took, at the very least, a significant hit after he returned to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season.

    Ricky O'Donnell and Tyler Lashbrook of SB Nation say we thought wrong.

    Wasserman has Smart going at No. 6 to the Celtics. Ford (subscription required) has him dropping to the Sacramento Kings at No. 8.

    Lashbrook and O'Donnell, meanwhile, have him being taken by the Magic with the fourth pick, and O'Donnell detailed why: 

    The Magic need to pair Victor Oladipo with a point guard who can handle the ball on offense and cover shooting guards on defense. Smart can do both. Now Jacque Vaughn just needs to find a way to do what Travis Ford could not: get Smart to stop jacking so many shots that would even make Russell Westbrook blush. 

    Throw this prediction out there a few days ago, and it reeks of crazy.

    But Exum is gaining steam as a top-three pick, with Embiid out of the picture. Tons of mock drafts had him going to Orlando at No. 4, so the 1-guard route isn't being plucked out of nowhere.

    This is just the Magic filling a need, adjusting to the draft's ever-changing climate while leaving Smart as one of the biggest possible leaps out there.

NBA.com's Scott-Howard Cooper: Julius Randle...Going Up?

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    Julius Randle has spent most of this year hovering outside the top five.

    Scour the web for mock drafts, and you'll see him going to the Kings at No. 8 or the Lakers at No. 7. Some are even giving him to the Celtics at No. 6.

    Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com took things one step further on the heels of Embiid's injury; he has Randle going in the top five, specifically to the Sixers at No. 3.

    There's a chance the 'Sixers go big with their first pick if both Wiggins and Parker are off the board. They could chase down Exum to pair with Carter-Williams, but they need to find a post partner for Noel.

    As a nimble-footed scoring machine, Randle is unlike anyone Philly currently has. If he develops a consistent mid-range jumper, he's someone who can be the No. 1 option on a playoff team. Put him next to Noel, and the 'Sixers have a nice offense-defense combination to roll out from the jump.

    Still, Randle is a reach here. Placing him within the top five is a reach in itself; the top three is unprecedented, as it guarantees he'll be drafted before Indiana's Noah Vonleh, who has spent most of this year as a top-five prospect.

Sporting News' Sean Deveney: Noah Vonleh's Draft-Day Fall

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    At least one other person is aboard the Randle-getting-drafted-before-Vonleh train. 

    Sean Deveney of the Sporting News has Vonleh slipping to the Kings at No. 8, three spots behind Randle at No. 5.

    Fit-wise, there's not much to say here. The Kings still inexplicably seem to have a logjam at every position. Adding another forward to the mix is somehow egregious yet not ridiculous.

    Vonleh has drawn comparisons to Chris Bosh for his offensive range, but he is very un-Bosh-like in his ability to play like a double-double and shot-blocking machine.

    Picking him up at No. 8 to pair alongside DeMarcus Cousins down low would be an experiment worth staging. That's assuming he falls this far, which he probably won't. And that the Kings hold on to their No. 8 pick, which according to ESPN.com's Andy Katz, they might not.

    A few bigs will invariably shoot up the draft board courtesy of Embiid's injury. Vonleh is going to be among them.

    Imagining him falling outside the top five, let alone the top seven, is difficult at this point.

ESPN.com's Chad Ford: Boston's Late-1st-Round Coup

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    Embiid won't be the only big man plummeting down draft boards.

    A source told Ford that the sweet-shooting Dario Saric has "agreed in principle to a three-year deal with Turkish powerhouse Anadolu Efes," which means he won't be in the NBA next season.

    In Ford's previous mock draft (subscription required), he had Saric going to the Orlando Magic at No. 12. But in light of the recent news, Ford believes he'll fall to the Celtics at No. 17. 

    That's huge.

    Saric has toed the line of a top-10 prospect all season. Potentially extending his stay overseas is what held him back. Now that he's basically committed to delaying his NBA career, he stands to slink further down draft boards.

    If he falls to the Celtics at No. 17, they're getting a steal. He rebounds, scores on the block, puts the ball on the floor and has the shooting touch of someone who has studied Dirk Nowitzki extensively over the last 16 years.

    No, he doesn't project as the next Nowitzki, but anytime you can compare the shooting styles of a post-lottery pick to one of the all-time greats, that's a win.

    For the Celtics, it could be a wonderfully massive draft-night coup.