The home stretch toward the 2014 NBA draft has arrived, as mere hours separate fans from an event that will alter the landscape of the league for years to come.
Translation—the rumor mill is on fire. Literally.
It's impossible to quantify what sort of impact these last-minute rumors have on the draft itself, but we do know it makes for one heck of a great time to be a fan.
Here is how to catch the draft on Thursday night, followed by a briefing on some of the latest nuggets of info to make the rounds.
NBA Draft Essentials
Date: Thursday, June 26
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Full Order of Picks:
|7||Los Angeles Lakers|
|21||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|28||Los Angeles Clippers|
|29||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|30||San Antonio Spurs|
Latest Rumors on Top Prospects
Jabari Parker Seems to Be Pulling Away
Who goes No. 1?
It's the most common question heard at any draft, and unlike most, fans have yet to find out who the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to pick when they waltz to the podium—if they even still have the selection.
But there seems to be some headway in this regard, as Duke's Jabari Parker sounds like he is pulling away from the pack, as Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix hints:
One reason some execs believe Jabari to the Cavs is a smokescreen: Several teams--most notably Utah--covet Parker at No. 1. Drive up price.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) June 25, 2014
Pair that with a report from Fox Sports' Sam Amico, and it's hard to not see what is going down:
Cavs have talked w Sixers, Jazz, Magic and Timberwolves within past 24 hours, multiple sources say.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) June 24, 2014
Even if Cleveland holds on to the top pick, it is hard to see them not taking Parker. He's an instant star who can score in bunches right away, whereas a guy like Andrew Wiggins needs time to develop.
If the Cavaliers want to contend for a playoff berth next year, Parker is the way to go. If they want to inflate the price and rip off a buyer, Parker is the way to go.
Noah Vonleh May Surprise Many
At just 18 years old, Indiana product Noah Vonleh has had quite the rapid ascension to the top five, where he seems destined to go at this point.
Vonleh is in part helped by the injury to Joel Embiid, but the bulk of the credit for his rise goes to the freakishly athletic forward who comes in at 6'10" and 240 pounds with pro-ready defense beneath the rim.
CBS Sports' Ken Berger lists the Orlando Magic as one team very high on what the developing Vonleh brings to the table:
The Magic's dilemma: They want a top frontcourt player to pair with Nikola Vucevic and may not be able to get one they're comfortable with at No. 12. In that case, sources say they may opt for Indiana's Noah Vonleh with the fourth pick.
Bottom line—Vonleh is a special talent, but teams want to take him early in the draft because they envision the player he can be once he matures. The physical tools and defensive skills are there, but it is the offensive side of the court where Vonleh can truly shine when it all comes together down the road.
Magic Covet Two Underrated Names
Speaking of those Magic, they might just be the wild card that shakes up the entire draft. Here is what Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders has to say on the matter:
Two names no one is talking about at 4 are Elfrid Payton and Nik Stauskas… both are players the Magic are really high on at the #12, but will likely both be gone at #12. There is a chance that Orlando grabs one of them at #4… or trades out of the #4 to insure they get one or both from the draft pool.
Nik Stauskas is an elite shooter out of Michigan who could immediately come in and play next to Victor Oladipo, while Elfrid Payton is everyone's favorite late-rising point guard who could shift Oladipo to the 2-guard spot to form an interesting tandem.
Regardless, No. 4 overall is entirely too high for both names, right?
Conventional wisdom certainly says so, but if the Magic get stuck and want to ensure they get the guy they covet, it may be riot time in the draft. Watch out.