The foot injury to Joel Embiid shook up the NBA draft like a New York City snow globe. Mock drafts increasingly pegged him as the No. 1 pick, and he had been all but assured of a top-three selection for months. Now that he could miss the start of the NBA season, draft boards and trade scenarios roil angrily.
Add to that the recent reports that Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James will both opt out of their contracts and enter free agency. With that much talent in the pool, front offices around the league work furiously to crunch the scenarios for the draft and how those will determine the future. Here are likely moves for all 30 first-round picks.
When: Thursday, June 26, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF, Kansas
Chad Ford is to ESPN's NBA draft coverage as Mel Kiper is to its NFL draft coverage. He's all over it. In the wake of Embiid's injury, the choice at No. 1 boils down to two guys, and one of them had a stinker of a workout for the Cavs.
According to Ford's mock draft No. 10 (subscription required):
Sources close to the Cavs told ESPN.com this weekend that the team is now leaning toward taking Parker with the No. 1 pick. However, it's far from a lock. 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.'
In stark contrast, Wiggins "nailed his his workout...and had a good interview. In fact, Wiggins was emphatic that he wants to be the No. 1 pick and wants to play for the Cavs."
Well, while the Bucks were riggin' for Wiggins with 67 losses, the Cavaliers look ready to swoop in and scoop up the tremendous talent. Even though Ford counters by placing Parker as the top pick, he seems to have given Cleveland enough reasons to think twice after whiffing with Anthony Bennett at No. 1 last year.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
The first two picks have essentially become a pick 'em: Barring a trade, either Wiggins or Parker will be selected first, and the other will go second. Parker is considered to be the most NBA-ready player in the draft thanks to his size and skill set, and the Bucks desperately need help.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
Australian combo guard Dante Exum had been a 1a kind of draft pick, just below the trio of top prospects and ahead of the next batch of talents. While the Magic would love to grab him at No. 4, Embiid's injury opens the door for Exum to go before that.
Sixers point guard Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year last season, and pairing him with Exum would give the team a dangerous young backcourt to go along with the shot-blocking skills of Nerlens Noel down low.
4. Orlando Magic: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Joel Embiid hails from Cameroon and produced excellent defense as a freshman, averaging 2.6 blocks and 0.9 steals in 23.1 minutes per game. He also has the physicality and nose around the rim to produce a nightly double-double but only if he can remain healthy.
A back injury kept him out of some games down the stretch of Kansas' season, and it emerged one week before the draft that he had suffered a broken foot.
USA Today's Scott Gleeson relayed the depth of the bad news after ESPN first reported the injury: "Embiid has a stress fracture in his right foot, agent Arn Tellem confirmed." The latest injury comes after Embiid told USA Today in May: "My back is better. I feel completely healthy."
Those injury concerns will drop him from the top three, but the potential payoff is too great to let him slide any further. Orlando can pair him up front with Nikola Vucevic to form a frightening front line.
Surgeon Dr. Richard Ferkel said about Embiid's surgery on Friday, via ESPN.com: “Two screws were inserted into the navicular bone in Joel Embiid's right foot,” and he “tolerated the surgery without difficulty.”
The recovery time is expected to be four to six months. While ESPN noted that a broken navicular bone ended the careers of Bill Walton and Yao Ming, others like Kevin McHale were able to return from the procedure. Embiid may be damaged goods but not damaged enough to slide very far down the board.
5. Utah Jazz: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Noah Vonleh is sensational. Despite being ranked somewhere between fifth and eighth among draft prospects for months now, he could be even better. He measures 6'10" and combines stout defense and energetic rebounding with the ability to shoot from the perimeter. He's also got hands and a wingspan like reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
According to the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan: "Vonleh already owned good range, making 48.5 percent of his three-point attempts in his only season at Indiana. Then he was measured last month with the draft combine's largest wingspan (a little more than 7'4") and largest hands (almost 10" long)."
Vonleh looks set for All-Star appearances wherever he lands. He looks like the best player available after the longstanding top four come off the board.
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, SF/PF, Arizona
Aaron Gordon oozes athleticism and can bring soaring dunks to whichever team selects him. He even looks a little bit like Blake Griffin, and he could run some terrifying alley-oops with Rajon Rondo.
If Gordon could improve his perimeter shooting, he would make for a very dangerous small forward. If the tweener wants to play at the 4, he will need to improve his strength and weight, perhaps at the expense of his spectacular athleticism.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Julius Randle recorded 24 double-doubles as a freshman, a better first season than every college player ever except Michael Beasley.
However, Randle dropped in a June 17 mock draft by ESPN.com's Chad Ford (subscription required) due to increasing concerns about a possible foot injury. As Ford noted, teams have assigned varying significance to Randle's foot problem:
Issues with his foot that were detected at the NBA combine might lead to his stock sliding a bit. It depends on who you talk to. Several teams I spoke with weren't concerned at all with the injury, saying it was a minor procedure to fix it and of all the players that have had Jones fractures in the past, none have had lingering issues with it in the league. However, other teams have said that it concerns them enough that they'd pass in the mid-lottery.
Randle has an NBA body and the skills to make an impact as a rookie, and Ford noted in his mock draft No. 10 that the "Lakers reportedly aren't as concerned as other teams" about his foot injury. Moreover, Randle is eager to don the purple and gold, telling Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding: "I'm the biggest Lakers fan. Probably more of a Kobe fan."
Currently, the Lakers have only one frontcourt player under contract, and his name is Robert Sacre.
8. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart blends relentless defense with enough offensive instincts to vex his defenders. Though his style may not exactly be fundamentally sound and he flashed a bit of a temper during his second season with the Cowboys, his stats remain unimpeachable: 18.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.9 steals per game.
His perimeter shooting needs plenty of work (29.9 percent from downtown last season), but he would be a great addition at No. 8 to join last year's Round 1 pick Ben McLemore.
9. Charlotte Hornets (from Detroit Pistons): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
As shown by his 16.7 points per game, Gary Harris can score, but he also averaged 1.8 steals, proving that he's no slouch on defense. That blend of skills suits a Charlotte team that built a playoff run behind solid defense last season, and his shooting could help the Hornets improve their three-point scoring from last season, when they ranked 25th in such field goals per game, per NBA.com.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from New Orleans Pelicans): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Doug McDermott won consensus National Player of the Year for a reason, and his combination of hot shooting and experienced leadership will likely place him in the lottery. Only four other players in the history of college basketball scored more points.
11. Denver Nuggets: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Nik Stauskas likes shooting basketballs. He connected on 44 percent of his three-pointers in both seasons with the Wolverines, but don't expect much from him on defense. After the Nuggs slogged through copious injuries last season, Stauskas could give them a savvy offensive player off the bench.
12. Orlando Magic (from New York Knicks via Denver Nuggets): Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Elfrid Payton has moved up in the draft more sharply than any other player, and after the Magic missed out on Exum, they would leap at Payton if he lasts until No. 12.
Between his stats last season (19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game) and his sensational workouts, many teams are looking at the Ragin' Cajun as another version of Marcus Smart.
There's a real chance that Elfrid Payton goes in the lottery. I've heard his range is 7-16. That's what happens when you dominate workouts.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 20, 2014
Elfrid Payton believes his stock is up because he's shooting well in workouts. Teams knew he could do everything else - shot surprised them.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 23, 2014
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Rodney Hood averaged 16 points per game and hit 42 percent of his triples last season while everyone focused on Parker. Whether Kevin Love stays in Minnesota or bolts for one among a host of attractive landing spots (much, much more likely), Hood provides some depth for the frontcourt along with solid three-point shooting.
14. Phoenix Suns: James Young, SG, Kentucky
James Young's 14-point average will attract teams, but he's part of a curious contingent of shooting guards who don't actually shoot all that well.
Young shot 41 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range. Those are decent numbers, but he'll have to shoot treys from even further away in the pros. He can still provide some depth for a backcourt that sorely missed Eric Bledsoe following his injury last season.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Adreian Payne has NBA size at 6'10" and 245 pounds, and he jacked up his scoring in his senior year by posting 16.4 points with 7.3 rebounds per game. He's another one of those big men who can hit his three-pointers at a 42 percent clip.
16. Chicago Bulls (from Charlotte Hornets): Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
Zach LaVine is one combo guard who some project will go in the top 10, but he could also fall out of the lottery amid a glut of other talents. You may be aware that the Bulls have a talented but oft-injured point guard named Derrick Rose. LaVine provides some desperately needed insurance for Chicago's always undermanned backcourt.
17. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn Nets): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Tyler Ennis played valiantly at Syracuse as a freshman, but coach Jim Boeheim opined on SportsCenter back in April that his star point guard could use another year of college ball before jumping for the pros. So much for that.
Ennis would offer a modicum of insurance if the C's decide to trade Rondo. If not, the young PG can learn from a master of dime-dishing.
18. Phoenix Suns (from Washington Wizards): Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia
Saric will slide in the first round after inking a deal in the Turkish league that will keep him from the NBA until at least the 2016-17 season. As ESPN's Chad Ford reported (subscription required): "Saric has agreed in principle to a three-year deal with Turkish powerhouse Anadolu Efes, a source close to Saric told ESPN.com on Monday. The deal will have a player option for year three."
Despite that long wait, teams will still be eager to draft and stash him across the pond, and he's likely to remain a top-20 selection. According to Ford: "Sources say the Hawks at 15, the Celtics at 17, the Suns at 18 and the Bulls at 19 are all looking at Saric." Each of those four enjoys multiple first-round picks except the Atlanta Hawks.
19. Chicago Bulls: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Jusuf Nurkic is another international player who needs more polish, but at 6'11", his size alone will lure some teams. The Bulls already took a point guard, so this would be a good time to draft the replacement for the ancient Nazr Mohammed, who will hit free agency.
20. Toronto Raptors: Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
Jerami Grant scored 12.1 points per game for the Orange last year, but the main attraction comes with his defense. However, he struggles shooting from the perimeter, and at 6'8", he profiles as a small forward without wing skills. That kind of player is falling out of favor in the modern NBA, and Grant could drop to late in the first round or early in the second, but he could also hold firm around 20.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas Mavericks via Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers): T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
T.J. Warren scored an impressive 24.9 points per game last year, but he struggles out on the perimeter, leaving him as something of a tweener for an NBA trending toward wings and swingmen. See the previous entry regarding the conundrum for small forwards who can't shoot well.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (NBA D-League), formerly UNC
P.J. Hairston played for the North Carolina Tar Heels once upon a time and averaged 14.6 points in 23.6 minutes per game in 2012-13. However, he was dismissed from the team for legal troubles and landed in the D-League. That hiccup makes him a potential steal in the 20s for whichever team leaps at him.
23. Utah Jazz (from Golden State Warriors): Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Kyle Anderson has elite ball-handling ability for a 6'9" forward, and he can fill up the stat sheet as well. He averaged 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game for the Bruins last year, and he can hit the college three-pointer with ease, draining 48 percent of his attempts.
Though many mocks have had him in the 20s, he could leapfrog the likes of Grant and Warren depending on what teams are looking for.
24. Charlotte Hornets (from Portland Trail Blazers): Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
A 6'11" forward for Switzerland, Capela at least offers size in a first round short on that category. He's raw, but he can block shots. He would probably also bring some of that excellent, expensive Swiss chocolate to team meetings, making him a popular locker room presence.
25. Houston Rockets: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Cleanthony Early averaged better than 16 points per game for the formidable Shockers last season, and his skills on the perimeter (38 percent shooting from downtown) plus a wealth of on-court energy would serve the Rockets well.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Shabazz Napier won a second national title at UConn and claimed the Most Outstanding Player honors for the NCAA tournament. After Mario Chalmers' atrocious NBA Finals, it could be time for a regime change in Miami. Norris Cole could be ready to assume the mantle at point guard, and Napier would serve as a competent backup.
27. Phoenix Suns (from Indiana Pacers): K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
This extraordinary shot-blocker stands at just 6'6", but he swatted 2.8 shots per game last season. Add that to his 17.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, and he could be a gem late in the first round.
Where will Elfrid Payton get drafted?
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
This 6'10" forward dealt with a back injury that dropped his draft stock, but he's a value pick here. The Clips needed frontcourt help so badly that Glen Davis played meaningful postseason minutes for them. McGary could be the wave of the future.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
He averaged 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. If he's available at No. 29, OKC has to take him so it has some depth behind Serge Ibaka, whose calf injury in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals exposed the team's thin roster up front.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Jordan Clarkson, PG, Missouri
Jordan Clarkson plays point guard, which just so happens to be the same position as free-agent-to-be Patty Mills. What do you get the team that seemingly has everything? Clarkson.