Note to the 2015 NBA draft: All you need is a broken foot from the class' consensus No. 1 overall player a week before draft night to pique interest exponentially.
Before news of Joel Embiid's broken foot sent the draft into mass flux, everything seemed in order. Embiid was destined for Cleveland at No. 1. The Bucks were ready to glad hand with Jabari Parker at No. 2. The 76ers' front office was going to make out with the Liberty Bell when Andrew Wiggins dropped to third.
The first "swing pick" didn't happen until Utah at No. 5.
Now? It's ALLLLLLLL swing picks.
Reports conflict from second to second on which way Cleveland is leaning. Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and a blockbuster trade all seemingly have a 33.3 percent chance of happening. (The remaining 0.1 percent? Aaron Craft, of course.)
Whichever direction the Cavs go will have a trickle-down effect that will continue through at least the top 10—if not the entire lottery. And if that's not wonderful enough, Embiid's draft stock seems particularly unstable. All of this makes Thursday's draft exhilarating and nearly impossible to predict.
So, what are we to do here? Put a blindfold on, spin around a few times and hope we connect with a few whacks at the NBA pinata.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins (SF, Kansas)
It comes down to this: I'll believe the Cavaliers are taking Parker when it actually happens. A day after indicating the Cleveland brass was leaning toward Parker, ESPN's Chad Ford indicated that the front office met for three hours to discuss Wiggins vs. Parker.
My money is still on Wiggins, simply because he makes the most basketball sense. The Cavaliers' roster is already inundated with talents who need the ball in their hands to be effective and would rather basketball be played as a half-court game. Putting Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Parker on the floor together is a near-yearly guarantee of finishing with a below-average defense. How many postseasons do we have to go through before teams realize being a top-10 defense is a requirement for title contention?
Wiggins might wind up being the best player in this draft when all is said and done. Even if he isn't, he's going to be one of the two or three best defenders. The Kansas forward projects as a yearly All-Defensive team consideration because of his length, top-notch athleticism and underrated basketball IQ. He is the best team defender among this year's lottery crop.
Given the almost nonexistent difference between he and Parker from a jump-shooting sense last season—statistically speaking, at least—I don't see a logical argument against Wiggins. He's the better fit in both the long and short terms.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker (SF, Duke)
The Bucks have wanted Parker throughout the process and, apparently, he has a fondness for the great state of Wisconsin as well. Ford (subscription required) has indicated that Parker would prefer to play in Milwaukee over Cleveland, with one source going as far as to say he "tanked" his most recent Cavs workout. That seems out of character based on what we know about Parker, so I'm not going to go too deep into those comments.
It would, however, make some sense for Parker to prefer the Bucks. Milwaukee is the closest NBA city to his hometown of Chicago that isn't...Chicago. The Bucks also have an infrastructure in place where Parker can step in almost instantly as the focal point of the offense. We highlighted why that wouldn't be the case in Cleveland.
What's more, the team has an exciting new ownership group that is committed to winning and building a better culture. The Cavaliers' infrastructure is, well, let's just say it's not the best in the league.
Parker also fills a need in Milwaukee by being the type of talent who can step in instantly, fill the seats and give fans hope. With Giannis Antetokounmpo continuing to grow—literally and figuratively—Milwaukee would have an excellent forward pairing if Parker drops.
(Note: Don't sleep on Dante Exum here if the Cavs actually do take Parker.)
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid (C, Kansas)
The theory against Embiid here goes as follows: The Sixers couldn't possibly select an injured player with their top pick after pulling a wait and see last year with Nerlens Noel, could they? I mean, I know the ownership is patient, but there's no way they could sign off on that, right?
Well, there is plenty of folly in that argument. Most have Philly passing on Embiid at No. 3 to take Exum. The Aussie guard is 6'6", no one is quite sure what to make of his shot and he's at his most effective when dribbling the ball into the teeth of the defense. Oh, and his length and lateral quickness allow him to project as a good defender.
Sound like anyone you know?
Either way, Philly is dipping into the redundancy pool. Adding Exum means trading Michael Carter-Williams. That's far from out of the realm of possibility, but Exum and Carter-Williams overlap on too many of their strengths and weaknesses to work as a cohesive backcourt.
If you're going to take a risk, take a deep breath and do it for the best player in the draft. Then pray to whatever deity you praise that Embiid's body holds up.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum (PG, Australia)
Exum and the Magic have been a fit throughout the process. Orlando has not so subtly been trying to replace Jameer Nelson for the last two years, and Nelson's impending free agency will force the situation. The Magic were dead set (subscription required) on taking Marcus Smart last year before he returned to school, a fateful move that wound up working out for the best.
Victor Oladipo was one of only a handful of 2013 rookies to show any long-term promise, and pairing him with Exum would give Orlando a potentially nightmarish defensive tandem. Exum is 6'6" with a ridiculous 6'10" wingspan, which makes him long enough to defend both guard positions. Oladipo is more than quick enough to keep up with point guards, so Orlando will be able to switch easily depending on the situation.
Landing Exum also allows the Magic to avoid pushing the farcical Oladipo-as-point-guard angle. Oladipo can handle the ball a bit, but he's turnover prone and much better as a secondary option. The only issue with taking Exum at No. 4 is shooting; the Magic are already a below-average team from long range. Exum's biggest flaw beyond his level of competition is his shaky jumper.
If general manager Rob Hennigan is convinced he can make an Exum-Oladipo backcourt work offensively, this is a no-brainer.
5. Utah Jazz: Noah Vonleh (PF, Indiana)
The Jazz have made little secret about their desire to move up. Utah offered Cleveland a package centered on forward-center Derrick Favors, the No. 5 pick and another asset, per Ford, but consummating the deal becomes less likely with every passing hour. If stuck at No. 5, the Jazz would probably prefer to trade down and recoup assets.
In this scenario, where we're not mocking trades, Vonleh might be the best option. He's garnered Chris Bosh comparisons because of his ability to stretch the floor and protect the rim with his length. Vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin told Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune that the team considers Favors a center long term, so there should be no fit issues.
Yes, I realize Enes Kanter still exists. His progress just hasn't been significant enough to garner faith that he's an NBA starting center, though he did have a very good last month or so. Favors' inclusion in trade talks with the Cavs could mean the front office is willing to trade one of their young bigs for another asset.
Vonleh is the closest to a good fit in a sea of mediocre ones.
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon (PF, Arizona)
Don't be shocked if Gordon is wearing an all-white suit with green trimming. The Celtics have adored the former Arizona product (subscription required) for months. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix reported that Boston general manager Danny Ainge was locked in on Gordon months ago. Other than maybe the Exum-Utah pairing, none has felt like more of a lock longer.
Gordon's main draw obviously is his athleticism. He turned in a 39-inch vertical leap at the combine, best in his position group, and showed off elite quickness in the shuttle run. In an era where teams adore rather than loathe multipositionality, Gordon's projection as a potential swing forward is tantalizing.
Everyone knows Gordon's shot is a work in progress. He'll probably have to play the 4 more often than the 3 early in his career to avoid spacing issues, and his skill set is currently far more on the power forward spectrum. Gordon made only 29.3 percent of his jump shots as a freshman, per Synergy Sports. There is some bust potential here if he doesn't find an organization comfortable enough to allow him to develop.
The Celtics are one of only a couple teams in the top 10 I'd feel comfortable with if I were Gordon.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle (PF, Kentucky)
The Lakers are left with an interesting decision here, given their conflicting desires. If available, Vonleh is the better long-term fit and a guy who will start coming into his own when the Lakers can realistically begin competing again. Randle is the second-most NBA-ready prospect in this class behind Parker; he's a low-post brute who will be an even more effective post player once he learns to pass.
Kobe Bryant's presence and his unwillingness to bend to reality makes me think the pendulum swings toward Randle. Even if Mitch Kupchak and Lakers brass aren't allowing Bryant to directly influence decisions, his presence is felt. Everyone from the janitorial staff to the Buss family knows Bryant has the ability to sink an already floundering ship.
Adding a rookie—any rookie—isn't going to help appease Bryant's desire to get back in the playoff conversation. Randle is just the closest thing. When grades are relatively even—and they are with Randle and Vonleh—it's safe to assume the win-now player will come to Los Angeles.
8. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart (PG, Oklahoma State)
The Kings seem to have roughly zero interest in selecting at No. 8. ESPN's Marc Stein reported that trading the pick is "inevitable" between now and Thursday night. There should be no shortage of takers given the talent in this draft and Sacramento's desire to win right now.
Again, we're not dealing with trades in this space. It's a one-way ticket to drunkard town that makes mock drafts completely ridiculous.
In the unlikely instance the Kings stick here, Smart will be the pick. He's the long-term fit they need at point guard if they decide re-signing Isaiah Thomas isn't a priority and he plays with an infectious toughness this roster could benefit from. We won't belabor the point here too much because it's not likely to matter come Thursday.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott (SF, Creighton)
I've had Nik Stauskas at No. 9 in previous iterations and have the former Michigan guard higher on my board.
Apparently, Michael Jordan disagrees.
Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears and the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell both indicated Hornets brass is high on McDermott earlier this month. It's hard to argue with the logic. Charlotte is fresh off its second winning season since the O.G. Hornets moved to New Orleans. Al Jefferson brought star power and hope to a franchise needing both, and McDermott would fill the latter criteria while filling a need.
The Hornets have one of the NBA's worst starting lineups from a shooting standpoint. Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson are all glaring minuses beyond the arc. Only a midseason trade for Gary Neal gave Charlotte some level of competency.
If nothing else, McDermott can light up the scoreboard from distance. He shot 44.9 percent on threes as a senior while taking 57 more than any previous season. Positional fit is a question mark, as is McDermott's ability to integrate his excellent post game at the next level. For a team that needs shooting, though, it's hard to criticize their push for the best or second best in this class.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Zach LaVine (PG/SG, UCLA)
If Sam Hinkie is really the gambler he seems to be, LaVine will be the pick here. His upside is as high as any player outside the Big Four, but his floor is arguably the lowest of any potential lottery pick. LaVine is not a basketball player at this point; he's an athlete who happens to play basketball.
He's still coming down from his 46-inch vertical leap at his Lakers workout. Teams are still watching UCLA film and wondering why he didn't assert himself more when he had such an athletic advantage. Wiggins skeptics speak of his freshman season in ways you'd think that he had the campaign LaVine actually had. Watching film, I kept having to push reminders of young Gerald Green out of my head—the good and the bad.
As the process has gone along, though, I've become increasingly bullish that he can make it work. Some of LaVine's timid nature came from Steve Alford forcing the ball out of his hands and into Kyle Anderson's. It worked from a wins-losses standpoint, but LaVine's confidence waned, as did his minutes played, as the season went along.
The Sixers and their ownership group might be the most patient in all of sports. Hinkie has assembled a Monstars-esque combination of size, athleticism and raw talent in his first couple years as general manager. Especially if Embiid winds up being the pick at No. 3, Hinkie should push his chips to the middle of the table and grab LaVine.
11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric (SF/PF, Croatia)
The Nuggets are another team that would more than willingly move out of their pick. Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post reported earlier this month that Denver was actively calling teams trying to gauge interest.
Because of course.
Denver has perhaps the NBA's most frustrating collection of misplaced depth. There are 11 players currently on the roster who could crack most rotations. Exactly one of those players cracked the top 50 in win shares, per Basketball-Reference. Kenneth Faried was 48th.
The last thing the Nuggets need is more depth clogging an already overflowing rotation. If they don't find a trade partner and Saric is available at No. 11, this is a very good fit. Saric was the 2014 Adriatic League MVP and has top-five potential. His decision to sign a three-year deal with Anadolu Efes, one that will prevent him from coming to the States for at least two years, complicates matters. Only a select few teams are in a position to take a kid with zero shot of making an impact right away.
The Nuggets are one of those teams. At the very least, Saric can be a potential trade piece somewhere down the line.
12. Orlando Magic: James Young (SF, Kentucky)
Orlando is probably a little disappointed McDermott is not available here. Neither Tobias Harris nor Moe Harkless has developed a reliable jumper yet, and adding McDermott to the fold would give the Magic someone who can stretch the floor from either forward spot. Stauskas isn't a fallback option here unless Hennigan surprises and goes with a big at No. 4.
In either case, Young is a strong fit and might be the best player of the three long term anyway.
A scoring-first wing with good athleticism and a 7-foot wingspan, Young began coming into his own late in his only season at Kentucky. The rim is still rattling from his dunk in the NCAA championship game against Connecticut, and his inconsistent jumper started falling with regularity. Consistency is a noteworthy issue, but one that's to be expected for someone still a couple months shy of his 19th birthday.
Young would also give the Magic another attack-first player who can fight his way into the paint. An Exum-Oladipo-Young trio requires a lot of faith in future projections, but it sounds awfully exciting.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nik Stauskas (SG, Michigan)
It's hard to know anything about the Timberwolves' future plans until the Kevin Love fiasco settles. At the moment, the proposed Warriors-Wolves deal we've heard about for weeks is dead, per Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher. The deal can still be consummated without draft pick compensation from either side, and I'd bet on Love wearing a Golden State uniform next season if forced to.
We'll get a good indication of where Flip Saunders stands on Thursday. If the expectation is Klay Thompson is coming over sometime in the immediate future, Saunders might go with someone like Rodney Hood or Adreian Payne.
Stauskas is the fit if Saunders plans on keeping the roster as currently constituted. Kevin Martin, also part of the potential Love deal, is under contract for the next three seasons, but he'll be nearing the end of his prime by the time Stauskas is coming into his own. Minnesota desperately needs floor spacing on the wing; it's been in the bottom five in three-point percentage each of the last two seasons.
Stauskas is the best or second-best shooter in this class. He also showed considerable improvement as a ball-handler and would be an interesting second option as a hybrid guard coming off the bench. At the very least, any minutes taken away from J.J. Barea are a gift from the basketball gods.
14. Phoenix Suns: Gary Harris (SG, Michigan State)
Harris is a guy who is better than his draft slot but doesn't stand out in a way that makes you think it's impossible he drops this far. He's a good shooter, not great. McDermott and Stauskas are better options for teams in need of an instant fix. He's a good athlete, not great. LaVine is the all-everything athlete who is going to coax a team into reaching on his potential.
Individual defense and polish is Harris' calling card over the others, which aren't sexy traits that engender a must-have mentality. Measuring under 6'3" without shoes at the combine will make some teams question whether he can guard bigger wings at the next level. His hook is, simply, being very good at playing basketball.
Hence his drop to the end of the lottery. The Suns aren't going to use all three of their picks; no playoff contender wants to develop three rookies. Harris landing here allows general manager Ryan McDonough to check a need off his list and then go about figuring out what to do with the other two picks. The Michigan State product fits in nicely in lineups where either Eric Bledsoe or Goran Dragic is sitting.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Elfrid Payton (PG, Louisiana-Lafayette)
Payton is the draft's fastest-rising name and might wind up hearing his name in the lottery. The Louisiana-Lafayette product has impressed scouts with his lightning-quick first step and his ability to compete one-on-one with fellow top guards in workouts. Flashing consistency with his jumper—a major weakness in college—gave some teams comfort that he can lead an NBA offense without being a spacing liability.
Atlanta drafted Dennis Schroder last June, but his rookie season was anything but promising. Schroder might top out long term as an NBA backup. The Hawks' willingness to trade Jeff Teague at the deadline also indicates a dissatisfaction with the point guard spot.
Mike Budenholzer was on Gregg Popovich's staff when the Spurs drafted a little-known point guard with an affinity for getting to the rim and no jumper. Payton is a long way from becoming Tony Parker. At No. 15, the talent might just be too much to pass up.
(Side note: Jusuf Nurkic is another possibility here, as is Rodney Hood.)
16. Chicago Bulls: Adreian Payne (PF, Michigan State)
Payne is one of the most underrated prospects in this class and a near-criminally perfect fit in Chicago. The Bulls, for what feels like the 43rd straight offseason, have to decide on whether to use the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer. The combination of high-profile free agents and Boozer's expiring contract might be enough for Jerry Reinsdorf to finally cut the check.
Payne can pick up 80 percent of Boozer's production and minutes right away. He's 23 years old, built like a grown-(expletive) man and is perhaps the draft's hardest worker. When Payne came to school, he was an undersized center who bullied his way into points. By the time he left, the Michigan State product had become a 42-percent three-point shooter and a pure stretch 4 in the mold of David West.
Tom Thibodeau has a mixed record developing young talent and a nonexistent record exhibiting patience. Thibs would be downright giddy to have someone as ready to contribute on both ends as Payne.
17. Boston Celtics: Rodney Hood (SF, Duke)
#Hottake alert: Gerald Wallace is not the small forward of the future in Boston. And, considering all the rumors that have been bandied about of late, the Celtics apparently don't think Jeff Green is the answer, either. Necessary reiteration of a previous point: Gordon is a power forward first and foremost, so him landing in Boston should do nothing to change the plans.
Hood, on the other hand, is a natural 3 who fills a desperate need for a scoring punch. The former Duke standout has a smooth stroke that stretches consistently out to the NBA three-point line, nailing 42 percent of his threes last season. Though not the most athletic player, he's very good at finding slivers of space and getting a good shot off. Hood ranked in the 99th percentile nationally in points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, per Synergy.
The Celtics tied Sacramento for the third-worst shooting percentage from deep in 2013-14. Hood fills a need and will end up being better than the 17th-best basketball player in this draft when all is said and done.
18. Phoenix Suns: Jusuf Nurkic (C, Bosnia)
GM Ryan McDonough has been open about the unlikelihood of the team using all three of its first-round picks on guys who will be on the roster next season. Nurkic allows McDonough to stay true to his word and land a potentially elite long-term asset.
The Nuggets could consider Nurkic at No. 11 if they're scared off by Saric's two-year plan. The Bosnian center is polarizing among scouts because of his almost nonexistent game tape, his relative lack of athleticism and questionable body type. He was brilliant in limited minutes last season in the Adriatic League, but couldn't stay on the floor due to conditioning.
Phoenix can afford to wait the one or two years Nurkic needs to grow into his body. The 6'11" big man averaged 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game; he was essentially an NBA 2K14 My Player from a statistical standpoint. The talent here is considerable, and the Suns' long-term need at center—Miles Plumlee probably isn't an NBA starter for a title contender—makes him a wise investment.
19. Chicago Bulls: Shabazz Napier (PG, Connecticut)
Shooting help is a priority, so the Bulls could look long and hard at P.J. Hairston if he's available. Even C.J. Wilcox is an option if GM Gar Forman wants to get frisky.
But it's time for some legitimate Derrick Rose insurance. Rose will have played 10 regular-season games in 30 months by the time the 2014-15 season begins. We have zero idea whether he can stay healthy or even begin to resemble his MVP self again. Every generation has a Penny Hardaway. D.J. Augustin is hitting the free-agent market this summer, so Thibodeau won't have the miniature jitterbug to fall back on next season.
This pick comes down to Ennis and Shabazz Napier. Ennis was a wise-beyond-his-years freshman at Syracuse, exhibiting both a pass-first nature and innate ability to knock down clutch shots. He's one of a select few 19-year-old basketball players Thibs wouldn't want to throw into a boiling hot cauldron.
Napier is a natural fit because he projects to be an instant-impact player, can be a really strong defender and brings much-needed shot-making to the table. He'll bring the insanity Nate Robinson gave the offense two years ago while being a much, much better defender.
The Bulls are in it to win it right now. If they don't package these picks to trade up, Napier is probably the 51-49 victor here over Ennis. Payne and Napier lack considerable upside, but they'll be solid two-way pros almost instantly.
20. Toronto Raptors: Tyler Ennis (PG, Syracuse)
The Raptors are taking Tyler Ennis if he's somehow available at No. 20. Bet your house on it. Ennis is a Canadian kid, a great value at this point in the first round and he plays a position of need.
Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez are free agents this summer. Lowry might wind up pricing himself beyond Masai Ujiri's comfort zone, and Vasquez isn't an NBA starter—even if he's better than most people give him credit.
Ennis is insurance against the inevitability of at least one departure. His poise and playmaking skills are sensational for someone his age; he has that coveted "feel" for the game you can't teach. More than half of his finished possessions came as a pick-and-roll ball-handler or in transition, which means he's at once a solid and terrible fit in Toronto. No team used less of its possessions in transition, while only two featured the pick-and-roll ball-handler more, per Synergy.
Adding a consistent three-point stroke and learning the ins and outs of NBA defense will be a challenge. But I suspect Lowry or Vasquez will be back and can hold the fort as Ennis develops.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: P.J. Hairston (SG, North Carolina)
The draft board breaks perfectly for the Thunder here. Jeremy Lamb's shaky development and Thabo Sefolosha's impending free agency only furthers the need for a two-way wing who can stretch the floor. Hairston can fill Sefolosha's shoes while putting some pressure on Lamb.
The former North Carolina star turned D-Leaguer is, if anything, 100 percent ready to be a pro. He has a fully developed NBA body, coming in at 6'5" and 229 pounds at the combine. Weight fluctuations and fits of laziness hurt his development in Chapel Hill, but he came into Chicago with an acceptable 8.20 body fat percentage.
As a player, Hairston does two things exceptionally well: Shoot the rock and finish at the rim. He has no mid-range game to speak of. Only 36 of his 404 shots with the Texas Legends came from mid-range. Like many D-Leaguers, Hairston's shot profile looks like something out of an analytics lab. The Thunder need a player like Hairston, and Hairston could use an organization with the infrastructure of Oklahoma City.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: T.J. Warren (SF, North Carolina State)
Warren is an impossible player to evaluate. He and Kyle Anderson are snowflake players, guys whose games don't really replicate anyone in recent memory. The best comparison to Warren is small forwards of the 1970s and 1980s, when the mid-range jumper was emphasized rather than (often unfairly) derided.
Warren's brand of basketball is not beautiful. It's almost entirely under the rim, built on a series of funky floaters and runners in the murky middle—a place that's usually a death zone for even great players. Only Chris Fouch of Drexel scored more points per game this season on runners, per Synergy Sports. He was also top 10 nationally in shots around the basket not generated by post-ups.
The Grizzlies need scoring everywhere. Their offense literally dies at times. I attended at least six funerals for it in the month of December alone. Even if it's unorthodox, Warren puts the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. Plus, he's not Tayshaun Prince.
The only issue is Warren's lack of three-point stroke. Memphis would jump on Hairston if he were available here.
23. Utah Jazz: Jordan Clarkson (PG, Missouri)
With the Jazz selecting Vonleh in this scenario, they should look long and hard at adding another ball-handler. Trey Burke had a fine rookie season, but I'm still not sold on his ceiling. Alec Burke remains a mystery three years into his career. Utah will have to make a decision on one of these guys—if not both—over the course of next season.
Adding Clarkson is fine insurance either way. A 6'5" combo guard, Clarkson is billing himself in that Russell Westbrook mold that seemingly every kinda-big guy who can handle the rock is right now. He's done wonders for his stock in workouts, vaulting from someone who was probably headed to the mid-40s into a solid first-rounder.
At age 22, I'm concerned whether he'll ever be much more than a third guard. He made only 28.1 percent of his threes last season at Missouri, and was a largely inefficient shooter during his freshman and sophomore years at Tulsa. Clarkson also never flashed the type of court vision or passing skills to make me think he'll translate to the NBA point.
In this spot, the Jazz don't really have many better options when factoring in need.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Mitch McGary (PF/C, Michigan)
Throughout the draft process, the buzz surrounding McGary has been quiet. Almost strangely so. It fed into perception that maybe his back wasn't quite 100 percent after it cost him his sophomore year at Michigan—and to a certain extent his draft stock. Or maybe a team whispered a sweet promise into his ear and convinced him to avoid individual workouts.
Signs are pointing to the latter as we head toward the draft.
Ford reported Monday that the Hornets were the "culprit" of McGary's workout stoppage. Translated from draft-speak: McGary will go to Charlotte at No. 24 barring an unforeseen twist. The Hornets have a need for a tough defensive presence in their interior, and even if McGary never becomes the full-time beast we saw in the 2013 NCAA tournament, he's a heady kid with a strong body.
Keep in mind that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the only Hornet other than Al Jefferson to average more than five rebounds last season. With Bismack Biyombo's ticket to bust city cashed, McGary should be able to come in and help assuage concerns inside.
25. Houston Rockets: Clint Capela (PF, Switzerland)
The Rockets have chucked all their chips into summer 2014 by allowing Chandler Parsons to hit restricted free agency. There are control-related reasons why Houston plans to decline Parsons' 2014-15 option, but it basically comes down to a desire to add a third superstar while having financial flexibility to keep Parsons.
Draft picks have no part in Daryl Morey's plan. Look for Houston to ship this pick off to the highest bidder—or any bidder, really—or go with the top available international talent. Since we don't play the trade game around these parts, we'll slot Capela here and move on with our day.
Capela draws some parallels to Serge Ibaka, mainly because they're two athletic freaks of nature with length and athleticism but a severe lacking in the basketball IQ department. Ibaka was further along than Capela is now. Expecting Capela to mirror Ibaka's rise into one of the NBA's best two-way players is also patently unfair.
In two or three years, though, we might be looking back on this and applauding the Rockets. Capela has unbelievable potential as a rim protector and defender. Even if he winds up being little more than a 15-minute-per-night backup big, that's not a bad haul for No. 25.
26. Miami Heat: C.J. Wilcox (SG, Washington)
The Heat can't technically trade their pick because of the Stepien Rule, but don't be surprised if they're on the phone after making the selection. It really all depends on how the Big Three decide to spend their summer—be it under contract or heading back into the unrestricted free-agency waters.
If Wilcox is on the board here, I'd advise against any possible trades. A four-year contributor at Washington, Wilcox is the exact type of young player Miami needs. He's a consistently strong three-point shooter, a solid defender and a pretty good athlete. It's a wonder that someone as talented as he wound up falling through the cracks this long.
With all sorts of roster questions surrounding the secondary talent on this team, Wilcox is a cheap replacement who can help on both ends of the floor.
27. Phoenix Suns: Kyle Anderson (SF, UCLA)
Having already cashed in their Free International Player coupon, the Suns can afford to be the team that pulls the Anderson trigger. No one can quite figure out their feelings with Anderson. Boris Diaw's brilliant NBA Finals run might have been the best thing to ever happen to the former UCLA star, yet drawing direct parallels is unfair.
Young Diaw was a better athlete than Anderson is now. He was light on his feet with excellent lateral quickness, able to use his basketball IQ and fast-twitch movement to stay in front of elite wings. NBA.com's scouting report on Diaw lists his first strength as being his "outstanding athletic ability."
Anderson isn't drawing nearly the same praise. There is almost no way he tops out as anything better than a below-average NBA defender. Lateral quickness will be an issue against small forwards, and strength against power forwards. Anderson has perhaps the best basketball IQ in the draft and will need to make his impression by learning team defense concepts.
All the degradation of his athletic ability too often takes away from a supremely gifted offensive talent. Anderson might be the single most gifted passer in this class, regardless of position. His shooting is still shaky, but it vastly improved from his freshman to sophomore season. Factor his rebounding skills and the Suns' need for a pass-oriented player, and Phoenix might be his best possible landing spot.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jarnell Stokes (PF, Tennessee)
Stokes is going to stick in the NBA. I don't think I've spoken to anyone who thinks otherwise. Rebounding is the most translatable statistic from the college game to the pros, and Stokes is one of the better board hogs in the class. Measuring at 6'9" with a 7'1" wingspan at the combine also assuaged concerns about his size.
In black and white: Stokes is the exact type of player the Clippers were missing last season. Doc Rivers shuffled through a revolving door of third bigs that included Ryan Hollins, Byron Mullens (yikes), Antawn Jamison and Glen Davis. Rivers even signed Stephen Jackson to a 10-day contract looking to infuse some so-called lunch-pail mentality.
Stokes is a hard-nosed player and may wind up being better than most evaluators assume at the next level. He's been flashing occasional range out to the three-point line and impressing scouts with his first-step quickness in workouts.
If he's not already off the board, the Clippers will snag him here.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Damien Inglis (SF, France)
The Thunder can afford to punt this pick to international waters after taking Hairston, and Inglis is moving fast up draft boards. The Frenchman wowed scouts at the Nike Hoop Summit with his combination of size, athleticism and strength. He has a 7'3" wingspan at just 6'8" and at age 19 is still only scratching the surface of his potential.
There is almost zero chance Inglis leaves Chorale Roanne Basket, which is just fine here. Oklahoma City probably doesn't want to use precious cap space on two American-born players who are going to sit in the months of April, May and June. This team has proven time and again that it doesn't want to pay the luxury tax, so every dollar counts.
I've not entirely bought in on Inglis as a first-round prospect. His sample size against top-level competition is limited, and his shot doesn't project well as currently constituted. Serbians Vasilije Micic and Bogdan Bogdanovic are both higher on my board, but Inglis is getting more buzz right now.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Cleanthony Early (SF, Wichita State)
The Spurs are going to take a player who fits their style—both on the floor and off.
Early fits the bill well enough. He would fill a role at the backup small forward position that is currently occupied by Austin Daye. I'm pretty sure—NBA 2K believers, aside—that we can all chalk the Daye experience up to a loss at this point.
Early falls much more in line with what San Antonio needs and might develop into a real asset as he works with Chip Engelland. Initially, the Wichita State product will make his money on defense. He's fleet-footed and tough on the perimeter, able to defend both wing spots and even some 4s in small-ball lineups. There's a chance he could be an All-Defensive candidate if he develops well.
Get him in a room with Engelland, the world's best shooting coach, and Early might turn into something more. There was a certain NBA Finals MVP who once came into the NBA with an insatiable work ethic, elite athleticism and a broken jumper. Let's just leave it at that.
All combine stats via NBA.com.
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter: